By Luke Johnson
After a marijuana and alcohol scandal nearly squandered their postseason dreams, Deer Valley High School baseball went on a 7-1 run to claim their second consecutive Bay Valley Athletic League Championship.
According to a variety of sources, four players were caught mid-season posting pictures, on the social network Instagram, of themselves using marijuana and alcohol. Two seniors and two sophomores were suspended a combined total of 30 games through punishment from administration and the athletic program.
Among those four athletes was one of Deer Valley’s premier players along with another being an everyday starter batting over .300. The absence of those key competitors wreaked havoc on the Wolverines as they lost five straight and found themselves at fourth place in the BVAL.
“My reaction was just complete shock,” Pitcher Tyler Vistalli said. “Kids always say ‘it’s never going to happen to me.’ And we never think it can happen to us… [But] no matter how slim that chance is it happened to us, and for us to overcome it was just huge.”
Vistalli was also a tremendous contributor to the Wolverines early in the season before suffering an elbow injury in early April that has sidelined him since. The ace was sporting a 5-0 record and a 0.88 ERA with 38 strike outs in 31 2/3 innings. Vistalli is currently probable for action in the playoffs.
This is the first year for Dan Peters as Deer Valley’s head coach, and only the second in school history after former Head Coach Dennis Luquet’s departure to Diablo Valley College. It was quite a roller coaster ride for Peters. After jumping to a 7-0 start the team began to have attitude issues.
“We had some players become selfish and jealous of other players’ success,” Peter said. “When we had a little adversity the worst came out in a player or two, [but] not all. Some players [complained] about things like, ‘Why am I hitting sixth [and] not fourth?’ A player or two were actually hoping that a teammate at their own position would do poorly in a game so that it would make them look better.”
During the ensuing five-game slide Peters gathered the coaches and players for a serious team meeting to set things straight. He instilled in the the minds of the players’ that they needed to encourage one another to be successful.
“We do not ever play against Deer Valley, we play against the other teams and against the game of baseball itself,” Peters told the varsity squad.
The Deer Valley coaching staff emphasized those kind of things over and over, and it appears to have paid off.
When asked how the four players involved in the scandal could have allowed this whole ordeal to happen, utility player Devante Boyd said, “That’s a tough one.”
Boyd was originally thought to be apart of the situation, but further investigation discovered that he had nothing to do with it.
Deer Valley finished with a 7-3 conference and 16-8 overall record. Coincidentally Liberty High School and Heritage High School were equal in both facets to make it a three-way tie in the BVAL standings. But Deer Valley was the successor in the tie-breaker due its victories over the other teams in their most recent match ups.
The play against Granada, the third-highest ranked team in the nation, during the playoffs, today, Friday, May 24.