Steve Schuck admits that he didn’t even know where the bathrooms were about this time last year.
A year later, and his Santa Barbara High baseball team is finding a lot of new ways to win ball games.
Behind a trio of home runs and a masterful pitching performance from Bryce Warrecker, the Dons cruised past Grace Brethren, 8-0, to move to 3-1 on the young season.
“These guys love each other, I’ve seen that develop all offseason, they will genuinely do anything in the world for one another,” Schuck said.
Warrecker is only two weeks removed from a second-round CIF basketball loss, where he was in the middle of a controversial call that ended the Dons’ season prematurely.
Anthony Firestone admitted that the team was holding out hope that they would have their 6-foot-9 righty for the start of the season.
“Not going to lie, we were all thinking it, we wanted that guy down here, we have so much confidence when he’s on the hill,” Firestone said.
Senior shortstop Nick Oakley agreed.
“We never wish anything bad on any of the athletes here, but having him makes a big difference for us,” Oakley said. “We want to get another Channel League title. We need him to do that.”
With his arm still getting into baseball shape, the Dons coaching staff put a pitch limit on Warrecker of 65-70 — hoping to get four innings.
They got five.
Warrecker worked the zone with a trio of pitches, striking out 10 Grace Brethren batters.
“Sometimes, the fastball is your best pitch, especially if you can spot it,” Warrecker said. “Today, I felt really good, and all of the pitches were working.”
The Dons’ offense gave him plenty of breathing room immediately, posting two runs in the bottom of the first behind a two-run bomb from Jordan Harris.
Two innings later, Oakley and Firestone went back-to-back with home runs over the right field fence, both no-doubters off the bat.
“We’ve been up here (on varsity) together since we were sophomores, to go back-to-back is pretty fun. I absolutely love Nick,” Firestone said.
Schuck said it was good to see Oakley get his bat going after scuffling at the plate in the first three contests. Schuck pointed to Oakley’s preferred walk-on status to UCSB as a reason.
“The guys that have a place to go, sometimes they can press because they want to prove that they deserve it,” Schuck said. “But those guys have already shown it for years. I saw Nick loosen up today, and you saw the result.”
Oakley would add a run-scoring double and a squeeze bunt that scored another run, with the fleet-a-foot runner easily beating out the throw to first.
“However I need to get it done, I’ll do it,” Oakley said.
The high school preseason isn’t all that lengthy, with Channel League action opening next Friday when Santa Barbara hosts San Marcos.
“We haven’t had that banner out on the fence (that says Channel League Champions) for a bit, so we want to keep it there,” Warrecker said.
Oakley knows that the team will need to stay focused.
“We have to stay after it, make sure we are doing the little things right,” Oakley said.
Schuck says he has to do little to keep them motivated.
“They push each other, I don’t have to push them at all,” Schuck said. “They want to put another banner out there.”