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Storm made the most of their 20-game season

There was the offense that averaged 8.6 runs per game.

There were the .335 team batting average, .504 slugging percentage, .438 on-base percentage, and 17 home runs.

There was the standout pitching of Tanner Fonoti, a sophomore right-hander, who was 7-0 with five complete games and a 2.80 earned run average.

There was the winning record.

There was the seven-game win streak, from April 23 to May 7.

There was the 13-12 win on May 6 over Laney College-Oakland — accomplished in walk-off fashion, as Christopher Blyskal came through with an RBI single with two-out, capping a five-run ninth inning comeback.

In a shortened 20-game season, there were all kinds of highlights for this year’s Napa Valley College baseball team, which went 12-8 — both overall and in the Bay Valley Conference.

“We had some great, intense end of the games,” Storm head coach Dan Parker said. “Whatever the situation was, it seemed like no matter what, we had an opportunity. And we knew we were going to succeed in those opportunities, which is a really nice feeling for a coach.”

There is a lot for Parker to feel good about, with NVC opting in to play during the state’s Spring II season.

Napa Valley was among 10 schools listed as “others” in the California Community College Sports Information Association 2021 Final State Top 15 Baseball Rankings, released on June 10 on the California Community College Athletic Association’s website, www.cccaasports.org.

“This program is all about the kids,” said Parker. “It’s the buy-in. It’s the process of all of our guys getting opportunities.

“If we were at full strength and in a full season, I think it could have been a little bit more memorable. But nonetheless, all the guys that came back after this COVID year and did what they did is just phenomenal. I feel bad for teams that struggled this year, because it’s been tough. It’s been a tough year and a half.”

Due to concerns over COVID-19, the CCCAA’s Board of Directors voted to cancel the remainder of the 2020 spring sports season in March of last year. The CCCAA is the state’s governing body for intercollegiate athletics within the California Community College System.

The Storm played its first game in more than a year on April 15, opening the 2021 season with an 11-6 victory over Contra Costa.

Napa Valley ended its season by winning three of its last four games.

“Everything just kind of clicked in terms of getting us all in the right frame of mind to succeed this year,” said Parker. “They kind of all clicked together.

“It takes a while to turn a program the way a new coach wants it. I think this was the year that’s kind of the turning point. So hopefully, we can just add to it and continue our success next year.”

The offense for Napa Valley was one of the bright spots.

“Amazing,” said Parker, when asked about the Storm’s hitting. There was big-time production up and down the order throughout the season, as the offense was led by:

  • Austin Mattos: .444 batting average, four RBIs.
  • Koby Sherwood: .394 batting average, five doubles, eight RBIs.
  • Dominick “D.J.” Pautin: .382 batting average, four doubles, 19 RBIs.
  • Wyatt Dorman: .379 batting average, 10 doubles, 19 RBIs.
  • John Adkins: .365 batting average, six doubles, 15 RBIs.
  • Christopher Blyskal: .358 batting average, two home runs, five doubles, 15 RBIs.
  • Derrick Robinson: .350 batting average, two RBIs.
  • Andrew “A.J.” McMahon: .348 batting average, six home runs, three doubles, 20 RBIs.
  • Tony Diaz: .342 batting average, two home runs, four doubles, 15 RBIs.
  • Bronson Wyman: 317 batting average, seven doubles, 10 RBIs.
  • Cole Shafer: .273 batting average, three doubles, seven RBIs.
  • Caleb Jeske: .259 batting average, two home runs, two triples, 22 RBIs

“There’s no one that could beat us when we’re at the plate — that’s kind of the mentality that we had,” said Parker. “It seemed like, in the past, we were able to scrape and score some runs, that helped us stay in games.

“This is not only a team that just scored and won games. We scored a lot of runs. We definitely ruined some ERAs, that’s for sure. It’s the mentality of us going and swinging the bat and making sure that every team, every pitcher knew that there weren’t going to be any cheap hits, that we were coming at you. Sometimes it put us in a bad situation, where we probably could have played for a run. But we also had a lot of games where we had big, huge innings.

“On the offensive end, I think we’re where we need to be.”

The hitters worked with Todd Smith, a new assistant coach for NVC, during the season. Smith is a 1982 graduate of Hogan High School-Vallejo and was an outfielder in the Cleveland Indians’ and Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league systems.

“We’ve known each other for a while,” said Parker. “He did a great job. It’s great to have him.

“I knew once Todd had committed, I could put that trust in him. We think very similar. So there was never, ever any looking over his shoulder.

“I committed to him and he committed to the program. These players, they trust his personality and take on his knowledge and they soak it in.”

Fonoti, who is out of Rodriguez High-Cordelia, had an exceptional season. In seven appearances (six starts), he gave up 43 hits and 14 runs (all earned), walked just nine and struck out 59 in 45 innings.

“It’s rare to have a guy that throws really hard and I think It’s hard to find a guy that can also keep batters off balance with that,” said Parker. “Obviously, the better your fastball, the more effective your off-speed.”

Fonoti was very effective throwing his fastball, changeup and slider. He tied for the state lead in wins for the season with seven, according to a report by the California Community College Sports Information Association on June 10. Bryce Armstrong of Butte-Oroville, Anthony Torres of Sequoias-Visalia and Cooper Vasquez of Ohlone-Fremont each had seven wins also.

“There’s too many weapons, I think, for him in terms of when you have to go face that guy. He learned how to pitch with all his pitches,” said Parker. “He can put every pitch wherever he wants.

“I think he’s got a good future ahead of him.”

Parker is expecting Fonoti, Diaz and Shafer to transfer on to four-year colleges, continuing their careers in baseball.

“These are three really special kids to me,” said Parker. “They trusted me and didn’t leave. All three kids have done well academically, which is nice.”

There are 22 freshmen on the NVC roster. Parker said there will be a focus on pitching and defense, when the fall season starts in September and continues to late November.

“We are loyal to our guys, and we want to make sure that they succeed next year. We’ll do everything we can to get them ready to succeed. We’re just really focused on the defense and pitching side of things next year, to complement our offense.”

Erik Altemus, a right-hander, was 1-1 with a 5.96 ERA in six appearances (three starts).

* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019 after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame in September of 2019. martyjames.sports@gmail.com

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