By Laurel Busby
When PaliHi’s baseball season began in February, three seniors had already signed to play college ball.
First baseman Henry Coquillard selected Tufts, pitcher Justin Hirschberg chose Occidental, and pitcher Augie Sylk is headed to USC. Several others were still considering their college options.
“We actually average five or six kids per year that go off and play in college,” said coach Mike Voelkel, who started coaching the Dolphins in 2007. “Two went to Division 1 last year, and others played in Division 3. We’ve been pretty good in offering kids the opportunity to play in college.”
Voelkel, who has three sons, including one who played for the Atlanta Braves, noted that his players also have been strong academically and were City Section champs in grade point average last year. In addition, the team reached the Division 1 playoffs, where they lost to eventual runner-up Chatsworth.
This year’s team, which has an 8-6 overall record, 4-2 in league, includes 12 seniors on the 16-player roster.
Pitching is a strong suit as Pali has six skilled senior pitchers, including lefties Sylk, Johnny Dietsch and Hirschberg, who was an all-Western League pitcher last year, plus righthanders William Smith and twin brothers Leo and Will Bucksbaum.
“We should have an opportunity to win the majority of our games because of our pitching,” Voelkel said. “The area we’ve been working on is our hitting. We’re constantly trying to build and keep a constant rhythm. We’re trying to improve inch by inch every day.”
The team also includes seniors Remy Meteigner, a center fielder and captain; catcher/captain Gabe Stewart; leadoff hitter/outfielder Jake Procino; shortstop Alex Weiner and outfielder Kiely Mizumoto, plus four juniors: infielders Jacob Kalt and Josh Barzilai and catchers Benji Taylor and Orson Hewett.
In league play, the Dolphins lost to Venice (5-4) in eight innings on March 14 and took a second loss (7-3) two days later. They beat Hamilton 10-0 and 12-0 on March 18 and 20, and also romped over] University 10-0, 10-0 last Tuesday and Thursday. Next league home game is against Fairfax on April 4 at 3 p.m. Over spring break the Dolphins will play in the premier division at the Lions Tournament in San Diego.
Pali usually finishes first or second in the Western League Voelkel said. He expects this senior-heavy team to again be a serious league competitor.
“Right from the very beginning when they first joined the team, these kids have been a very special group,” Voelkel said. “They’re very cohesive. They’ve enjoyed the activity itself, and they’ve been immensely appreciative.” In pre-league play, the Dolphins split two games with San Pedro, including a season-opening 2-0 loss with Hirschberg pitching, and an 8-1 win with Sylk and Leo Bucksbaum pitching on March 11. In addition, the Dolphins beat Granada Hills, 12-2, with both Bucksbaums pitching; Carson, 8-3, with Hirschberg notching 12 strikeouts, and Bellflower, 3-2, with Hirschberg pitching a three hitter, including seven strikeouts. The team also lost 16-2 to El Segundo and 12-0 to Palos Verdes.