By Luke Johnson
After discipline problems 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.
The Wolverines ended up losing 7-1 in a second round playoff game, on Friday, May 24, to the power house Granada High School Matadors from Livermore, who are currently ranked fourth in the nation. But in order for the Wolverines reach this point they had to buckle up for a bumpy roller coaster ride.
According to a variety of sources, four players were caught mid-season posting pictures, on the social network Instagram, of themselves using alcohol or marijuana. According to one parent, three players were suspended for alcohol use and one for marijuana, violating team rules. Two seniors and two sophomores were suspended a combined total of 30 games as punishment from the administration and the athletic program.
According to sources, who chose to remain anonymous, some of the parents of players who were upset their sons weren’t being played enough, complained about the other players’ photos, which resulted in the suspensions.
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 was unable to play 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 part 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.
“Having kids work hard in practice and games, showing much improvement along with winning the league made it a very rewarding season,” Peters said. “We have many strong, young players coming up that should keep the program going strong. We can build upon the work ethic established this season.”
Deer Valley had four players selected All-BVAL First Team for the 2013 campaign. Utility player Jordan Gough batted .469 with 26 RBI’s, while center fielder Marcus Wise set a school record with 46 stolen bases capturing 26 of them this season without being caught. With great defense in the infield Tony Self also batted .393, and pitcher Spencer Vincent went 3-2 spotting a 1.50 ERA.
Allen Payton contributed to this article.