Stepping into a leadership role is no easy task for some people. Being a senior on the youngest team your coach has ever had can cause some added pressure. Some guys fold in these situations, some thrive. By the accounts of peers and onlookers, all signs point to the thriving of senior Garrett Schwartz on the Sonoma State baseball team.
Just this week the National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association named Schwartz to the Preseason All-West Region Second Team. This is already a step up from the end of last season when he was named to the All-Conference Second Team. Baseball writers have confidence in him, and more importantly, so do his coach and teammates. Stogner and Schwartz have been teammates since their freshman year in 2011.
“He’s really calm, and his presence is relaxing,” said senior Jackson Stogner. “Playing with Garrett the last four years has been a real honor.”
Calmness in high-pressure situations relaxes teammates, as stated by Stogner. In terms of baseball, producing in high-pressure situations while being calm speaks volumes. Schwartz has already had that experience and produced very well. He was third or better on the team in nine offensive categories last year as a junior, leading the team in doubles (17), home runs (five), total bases (92), and slugging percentage (.495). He expects his senior season to be even better.
“For myself, hit over .350,” said Schwartz about his personal goals for this year. “I want to see the team bat over .300 and definitely get back to the World Series like my freshman year.”
Sonoma State was a handful of wins away from being in the Division II College World Series in 2011, and with just a handful of seniors, Schwartz has as much confidence in this team as he did as a freshman.
“We have a squad and I definitely think we can get back there and do it again,” said Schwartz.
Coach John Goelz is also on board with the youngest team he’s ever had. He knows leadership will have to come from his veterans like Schwartz and Stogner, but doesn’t use that to discredit his young players. He doesn’t name captains, but knows that Schwartz and Stogner possess the qualities he needs in his seniors to guide this team’s success.
“They’re both the kind of guys that are captain material and I think everyone looks up to them, not just the freshmen,” said Goelz. “They play hard, they try hard, and they set the example by doing the right things… I think they’re good leaders period and they’re great for the entire team.”
Goelz sees the greatness he wants to get out of all his players but admits he doesn’t always see it coming before the season starts. Like last year when the Seawolves had two seniors eventually named the best pitcher in the West Region, and the best player in the country in all of Division II. With this year’s team coach Goelz he knows he can get surprising production out of the young guys. But he also knows the examples set by his veterans is what is going to steer this team down the winning path they desire to be on. As Schwartz said, receiving a preseason honor “pumps him up” for this season, and he is primed and ready to bring his team back to the College World Series.
The Seawolves open the season at the Seawolf Diamond right here on campus this Thursday, Feb. 6 at 2 p.m. against Western Oregon. They finish the opening season series against Western Oregon with two doubleheaders the next two days, both starting at 11 a.m.