After jumping out to an 8-1 record and dominating almost every opponent, the 2020 Laguna Beach High School Baseball team looked to be on the verge of a championship season. When school closed down in March, hope of achieving this goal evaporated. Seniors could not play out their last season, and what could have been an amazing year was never finished.
“This group knew they wanted to win the league, and they thought they had a real shot at a CIF title,” said head coach Jeff Sears. “In my mind both those goals would have been attained. If you work hard and set high goals, you will work even harder. That group pushed themselves daily.”
The team started the season 2-0 after a double-header against Beckman. The team then went on to win the Newport Elks Tournament and an away game against a tough Sunset League opponent in Edison. These victories are what last year’s players can hold on to.
“Last year’s team had team chemistry unmatched by any other team I’ve been on. This was special because we were able to bond with one another and create great memories,” said sophomore pitcher and first basemen Ryan Strickland.
There were eleven seniors on the team who graduated last year: Nolan Smith, Charlie Pillsbury, Aidan Kidd, Aidan Booth, Christian Holm, Enzo Sanchez, Jackson Yelland, James Loughlin, Jeremy Hayes, Will Potratz and Brooks Hogenauer.
“Since we had such a big group of seniors, our camaraderie and common goals are what really made our team special. Coach Sears did a great job of giving us a plan and when we stayed within this approach our team was unbeatable,” said Aidan Kidd, now a freshman pitcher at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
The team’s statistics tell the story of their success. Then-seniors Smith, Pillsbury, and Booth led the team in batting average with averages of .500, .452 and .440, respectively. Kidd led the team with 18.1 innings pitched, a 3-0 win-loss record and 24 strikeouts, while posting an incredible 1.53 earned-run average (era). Collectively, the team held a .341 batting average and 2.56 era. They concluded the season ranked 7th in California and 30th nationally by MaxPreps.
“Our goal was to win a CIF championship, and it’s disappointing that we weren’t able to accomplish a goal that we worked for four years to achieve,” said Kidd.
Apart from the team’s success, a brotherhood developed among the players. The team won, lost and spent countless hours on bus rides and practicing together. They learned how to deal with hardship and ultimately with having something they cherished taken away from them. Their relationship and careers transcend the game of baseball.
“The team of 2020 was a family. The biggest thing they learned was you never know when something can get taken away, so play hard everyday. That group will be successful in life learning from the past four years. They know they have a family here to fall back on when things get tough,” said Sears.