It comes as no surprise that the Berkeley High School (BHS) boys’ baseball team is finding success this season on and off the field yet again. Already, they have won the WACC Foothill league title, with a 12-3 record, and entered the North Coast Section (NCS) championships as the ninth seed with an overall record of 17-8.
While things seemed to be on an upward trend for the Yellowjackets, their success did not appear without hard work. Senior captain Ole Iversen said, “We went through a slump where we lost a set of a few important games by very small margins just because of a lack of offense.” And it’s true, the team lost five of the seven games played in a matter of weeks by just one run. Senior and captain Michael Dixon attributes their losses to the team’s constant defensive mindset and lack of power on offense.
Nevertheless, the BHS boys’ baseball team seemed to quickly correct their problems on offense, and won the next six games consecutively. “We kept our heads up because knew we could get out of the slump, and eventually, we did,” Iversen said.
All teams, across every sport and at every level, experience highs and lows in their seasons, and sometimes it can be a struggle motivating a team to get out of a low quickly and effectively. Like any team, the BHS boys’ baseball had to work extremely hard to switch their mindset from one that cost them games and played solely defensively, to one that won games and played offensively.
Luke Mager, another captain of the team looked at their situation more optimistically and said, “Losing those close games was tough, but it made us more resilient, and brought us closer together as a team.” From that moment forward, the team found more consistent success, beating powerhouses such as Alameda and Bishop O’Dowd within a matter of weeks.
While Alameda had a league record of 10-5, and Bishop O’Dowd finished 11-4, in the end the Yellow Jackets came first in their league with an astounding record of 12-3.
Mager explained, “Now that we won the regular season league championship, our main goal is to win the North Coast Section (NCS) Championships. That has been our goal all season, and we all want to do whatever it takes to win that ring.”
In the past, highly competitive schools such as De La Salle High School and San Ramon Valley High School, both schools that seem to find success in all their sports teams, have won the boys baseball NCS championships. However, Berkeley has a different idea this year.
The closest the Yellow Jackets have come to winning NCS was in 2014 when they made it to the semifinals, losing to San Ramon Valley 5-0. However, last year, the team didn’t make it past the first round of NCS, despite entering as the no.3 seed. Injuries to both their starting shortstop and third baseman prior to NCS contributed to a 2-1 upset loss to Freedom High School. Obviously, the team has gone through ups and downs in their seasons over the years, but coming off of a league title should boost the Yellow Jackets’ confidence substantially.
The boys baseball program also always has strong Junior Varsity and Freshman teams, so over the years the varsity team should be getting stronger. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure: The Yellow Jackets this year are hungry to win NCS, take home that ring, and determined to make their mark. “When we play our game, we can play with anyone, so we definitely have a chance to win NCS,” said Mager. Coach Curtis Sanderford added, “This team is battle tested and can play with anybody.” One of the main factors in why the team has gained so much success this year is their chemistry off the field.
“Now that we won the regular season league championship, our main goal is to win the North Coast Section (NCS) Championships … We all want to do whatever it takes to win that ring.”
Dixon, Iversen, and Mager all describe the team as having a loose and relaxed vibe, where they all know how to have fun, even when the pressure is high. It is clear when watching this team play how much fun they have as a group, jumping around and screaming support from the dugout.
Sandeford added, “This year’s team gets along well on the field and off the field. These boys care about each other and they have fun when they’re together.” The team’s obvious talent combined with their positive team chemistry can only mean one thing: this is a team you do not want to miss. As Coach Sandeford said, “This year’s Berkeley High Varsity is very confident, and they always find away to get the job done.”