Players on Fallbrook High’s varsity baseball team likely have never heard of the old television sitcom “Growing Pains” (1985-1992, ABC), but they’re experiencing their own growing pains this year and handling them well.
“They’re hanging in there,” said co-head coach Martyn Camacho of the young players.
How young is the varsity squad? For a tournament game against Oceanside April 10, the Warriors started an all-freshman infield consisting of Joel Calhoun at first base, Ulysses Knox at second, Dean Olivo at shortstop, and Tristen Smith at third.
Sophomore Harrison Brown was the starting pitcher and junior Trevor Sheets was behind the plate. Sheets was pressed into catching duties when freshman Josue Navarro, the team’s starting catcher, broke his wrist in a play at the plate against San Marcos March 29.
In the outfield, freshman Zach Allegro manned right field and he was joined by senior Max Sherman in center and junior Collin Hoff in left. So, Fallbrook’s starting nine against Oceanside featured five freshmen, a sophomore, two juniors and a senior.
The Warriors dropped a lopsided decision (10-0) to the Pirates but battled throughout. There were some highlights, such as reliever Hayden Rose pitching a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth after striking out the last batter he faced in the fourth, and catcher Sheets gamely blocking the plate and making good tags after receiving strong throws from the outfield – one from Hoff in the fourth and one from Allegro in the sixth – to prevent runs.
“He did a heck of a job,” said Camacho of Sheets, who was behind the plate for the first time as a Warrior. “He’s usually our second baseman, but after the San Marcos game he came up to us and said, ‘by the way, I can catch.’ He hung in there and made some plays today.”
The Warriors made some mistakes during the game and those were addressed when the coaches – Camacho, fellow head coach Patrick Walker, assistant coach Doug Baker, and pitching coach Mark DiBenedetti – huddled with the team on the right field line following the contest.
“The message today was it begins with discipline,” said Camacho of the post-game discussion. “When you play a decent team, you can’t make physical and mental errors.”
Camacho said the key is for the players to learn from the mistakes. “It’s all about growth,” said Camacho.
The Warriors coaching staff has had to adjust to the youthfulness of the team.
“You have to treat this team differently than a veteran team,” said Camacho. “We try to keep it positive. We know that’s our job – to keep them motivated, to build in them the belief so they believe. It doesn’t matter if they’re freshmen, they can play. They’re at this level, and once they get that confidence, they’ll be OK.”
The Warriors – like the 2017 San Diego Padres – have their eyes on the future.
“We’ve had our struggles, but we’re trying to build a foundation with them,” said Camacho. “We went into this year knowing that we were going to take our lumps, but we’re so excited for the future. And I think a lot of that is managing and development.”
On every team there is a leader, and on the current club it’s Hoff, the Warriors’ No. 1 starter who plays left field when not pitching. Hoff is also the team’s top hitter – he had an impressive .375 batting average through the first 11 games of the season.
“First and foremost, he’s a great student-athlete – a great person, a great kid,” said Camacho of Hoff. “He has an unbelievable work ethic. He has drive, he always wants to get better and he’s a competitor. He’ll help lead these young kids for the next two years.”
Hoff played a key role in both the Warriors’ 5-2 victory over Escondido Charter and in their 3-2 win over Mt. Carmel.
Hoff and Navarro both went 3-for-4 against Escondido Charter. Hoff had a triple and an RBI, and Navarro had two doubles and three RBI. Allegro, Rose and Brown combined to hold Escondido Charter to two runs, with Brown closing things with two scoreless innings in which he struck out four batters.
Hoff started against Mt. Carmel and pitched six strong innings, giving up just two hits, no earned runs and striking out eight. Brown pitched a scoreless seventh for the save.
Camacho knows the 2017 season will at times be tough on the young Warriors, but he is confident they can handle it.
“That’s the great thing about this team, they’re very resilient,” said Camacho.