Varsity Baseball Ends Epic Season

The Varsity baseball team was defeated by the Granada Matadors 6-0 in Tuesday’s NCS Division 1 Semifinals. The Matadors will play De La Salle in the D1 Championship game on Friday. The Dons completed an historic season as they say goodbye to several mainstay Seniors who have restored the excellence of the baseball program under the guidance of Coach Hornsby and his staff this season. The entire year has been “For the Boys!”. They have played for each other with joy and stayed true to one another on and off of the field. As usual the squad came out loud and proud in Livermore against the Matadors.

To put this match up in perspective, Granada has over a thousand more students than Acalanes. They are ranked #13 Nationally, #4 in California and #1 in the NCS Section and the SF Metro with a 28-1 record. With that said, the boys were ready for a fight. The Dons are ranked #26 in California, #5 in the SF Metro and #4 in the NCS Section. Peter Thorn was on the mound and the game was on.

Both teams went down fairly quietly in the first inning before the balance of the entire game was determined in the second frame. With one out Gavin Bender came up and smoked a double over the left fielders head. DH Ando Butner followed with a walk to bring up Mason Zirkel with two on and one out.

Mason noticed the third baseman playing back and laid down a perfect bunt single to load the bases. The bench was fired up!

After a second out was recorded left fielder Everett Glass was up with the bags juiced. He absolutely drilled a line drive up the middle that caught the pitcher’s glove and knocked it off of his hand. The pitcher quickly retrieved the ball and tossed an underhanded throw to first, narrowly getting Glass for the third out of the inning. The Dons inability to score here would prove to be a staggering blow. The ball was just not bouncing the right way for the boys on Tuesday.

The Matadors came back in their half of the second with four runs off of two uncharacteristic Acalanes errors. Henry Souza replaced Thorn on the hill in the fourth inning. He pitched the fourth and the fifth frame before handing the rock to Branson Smith. Branson pitched a clean sixth inning in another solid appearance.

The offense could only muster three hits and a walk against Granada’s Stanford commit. He threw hard and had impressive control in his 85 pitch outing. Mason Zirkel and Gavin Bender had hits and Ando Butner had a walk. First baseman Sully Bailey also had a hit and a couple of really nice defensive plays at first.

The boys finished the season 23-4, with a long list of accomplishments and highlights. There were historic winning streaks, a tournament championship, a no hitter, walk-offs, comebacks, heartbreak and redemption. It has been an absolute pleasure to chronicle these contests. Between football (15) and baseball (27) I had the honor of writing 42 stories about the boys this 23-24 school year and what a fantastic ride it was.

I added a few sections to today’s final baseball story, for this is the end of an era for some of us. First and foremost I want to thank the entire community for their passion, support and love for this amazing group of boys. They are a special crew that had some groundbreaking accomplishments this school year.

I would also like to thank…

  • Connor Hornsby and his dedicated coaching staff. You have helped turn our boys into men and we will forever be grateful.
  • Richard O’Rourke for his tireless work as team photographer and unconditional support. His amazing pictures told all the stories. I just had to surround them with words.
  • Paul and Natalie Souza for their relentless commitment to the legacy of the Acalanes baseball program.
  • Michael Gonzales and Kyle Stadt for scorekeeping and general game day operations.
  • Veronica Bykin for skillfully arranging rides for the boys to and from all away games.
  • Jane Smith for her social coverage of the team and her passion for the blue.
  • The students for packing the house all year. I have never seen high school baseball attended the way that it was this year. What school spirit! A tip of the cap to the Dons Nation!
  • The parent coaches that got our boys to Varsity baseball at Acalanes. Those years flew by but the memories will last forever. The grind and the sacrifice were all well worth it.
  • My wife Jackie for putting up with my years of coaching, writing and geeking out on youth sports.

    Fun Facts
  • The boys won their first seventeen games to start 17-0, which established a new school record.
  • The Dons did win their last two games of the ‘23 season, so the winning streak was actually nineteen over the two seasons.
  • The streak included winning the Concord Holiday Tournament in early April. The tournament featured teams like Vintage, Campolindo, Antioch, Miramonte and more.
  • On Thursday, March 28 Peter Thorn threw an 85 pitch no hitter with only one walk and seven strikeouts in seven sterling innings of work.
  • Six boys were named to the “All League” team for the DAL. Gavin Bender and David Gonzales were named to the first team, Mason Zirkel and Peter Thorn made the second team and Keegan Goddard and Branson Smith received Honorable Mentions.
  • There were eight boys on the team that played for the State Championship football team. (These boys helped give our team an “edge” that often intimidated opponents.)
  • The fans “unofficially” set an attendance record with consistent big crowds all season.
  • James Stadt and Mason Zirkel won their first baseball championship together in 2016 with the AAA Cubs in Lafayette Little League when they were 9 and 10.
  • James Stadt, Brady Quinn and Dom Patitucci won the District 4 All Star tournament when they were 10 in 2017.
  • Henry Souza, Everett Glass, Gavin Bender and Mason Zirkel won their first baseball tournament (The Buckeye Classic) in 2017 with the Lafayette All Star “Jets”. They were 11.
  • Gavin Bender and Mason Zirkel won the Lafayette Little League Majors championship with the Padres in 2018 when they were 12.
  • Jack Giogianni, Aiden Yates, Sully Bailey, Peter Thorn, Keegan Goddard, James Stadt, Brady Quinn, Everett Glass and Mason Zirkel played on the 2022 JV baseball team that went 19-2, including a victory over Campolindo in Moraga pitched by Jack Giorgianni.
  • Freshman Drew Asadorian played on the undefeated Acalanes Freshman football team that started playing in August. He did not lose a high school game until April 18 when the baseball boys lost their first game of the year. Eight months without a loss. Not bad Drew!
  • Many of these boys played advanced baseball and travel ball together for years in Lafayette and our surrounding areas. Several of these players played for local legend Jon Zuber.
  • James Stadt, Henry Souza, Benji O’Rourke and Keegan Goddard also played for Jon’s elite teams, the Zoots, last summer.
  • Team Leaders . Here is a quick look at some of the offensive, defensive and pitching leaders for the season.
    • Batting Average (James Stadt .304/Isaac Copen .300/Gavin Bender .295)
    • On Base Percentage ( Keegan Goddard .449/Mason Zirkel .438/James Stadt .425)
    • Slugging (Gavin Bender .435/David Gonzales .393/Isaac Copen .375)
    • OPS (Mason Zirkel .793/Keegan Goddard .790/Gavin Bender .789)
    • Runs Batted In (David Gonzales 24/Benji O’Rourke 22/Gavin Bender 12)
    • Stolen Bases (David Gonzales 25/Keegan Goddard 21/Sully Bailey 11)
    • Fielding Percentage-min 10 chances (Keegan Goddard and Sully Baily 1.000/Benji O’Rourke .986)
    • Pitcher W-L Records (Peter Thorn 9-1/Branson Smith 4-0/Jake Colaco 4-1/Henry Souza 2-0)
    • Earned Run Average (Brady Quinn .84/Mason Zirkel 1.11/Peter Thorn 1.29/Branson Smith 1.43)
    • Appearances (Peter Thorn 16/Branson Smith 14/Henry Souza 8/Isaac Copen 7/Jake Colaco 7/Brady Quinn 6)

The future looks very bright for the program. Unfortunately some of us have to move on. The Senior boys will be Dons forever and so will their parents. They have left their mark on their school and their community. What a great start in life for this talented crew. It was wonderful spending the season together. I can’t wait to see what they will do next. Until we meet again. Go Dons!