15-5 season one of Healdsburg’s best ever
The varsity baseball Greyhounds made their mark on the school record books during an historic 2021 campaign, wrapping up their 20-game spring schedule with an overall record of 15-5.
“It was one for the ages,” veteran coach Mark Domenichelli reflected. “Between COVID and not knowing we would even have a season and then playing as well as we did, I was just happy for the kids. The team chemistry was unbelievable.”
Healdsburg finished up its final stretch of play with an even split in two games, coming from behind to beat El Molino,11-8 followed by a 3-0 loss to Santa Rosa. The Panthers finished the NBL Redwood Division in first place with an 11-1 record, followed by Healdsburg at 8-4.
Just two years removed from going 0-24, the Hounds put it all together this year, combining outstanding pitching with great defense and a strong offensive attack. The team also did the little things to win ballgames, using heady base-running to manufacture runs without always relying on hits. The hits kept coming anyway, as the Hounds hit a collective .280, with the team driving in 110 runs in 542 at-bats.
Along the way, junior Ayden Herrguth shattered the all-time HHS record for most hits in a season with 30. The steady infielder also tied the team record for runs batted in with 27 while posting a batting average of .435. Sophomore shortstop Sam Vanden Heuvel (.393, 22 runs, 10 RBIs) also enjoyed a breakout season while splitting time playing varsity basketball.
“Putting Vanden Heuvel in the leadoff spot was one of the best things I did because he took a lot of pitches and hit well with two strikes,” Domenichelli noted. “He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached.”
Senior catcher Hunter Irons (.368, 24 runs, 20 walks, 2 HRs, 12 RBIs), did everything but sell hot dogs, throwing out runners from behind the dish while giving the team tremendous leadership both on the field and in the dugout.
“Having Hunter out there and the infield we had were probably the team’s greatest strengths, Domenichelli said. “Teams just had a hard time scoring on us.”
The Healdsburg pitching was second to none, led by senior workhorse Justice Brilliant (7-2, 51.1 IP, 35 Ks, 2.71 ERA, 4 saves), who appeared in 15 games, led the team in wins (7) and saves (4) and was effective both as a starter and in relief. He also hit .284 at the plate with 15 runs batted in.
Pitcher Gavin Valls (31.1 IP, 34 Ks, .3.13 ERA, 10 BBs) also had a break-out campaign, setting a team record for sophomores with four wins. Junior Jayson Licea (24 IP, 2.17 ERA) was among the team’s most reliable starters, while Herrguth (16.2 IP, 15 Ks, 0.84 ERA, 3 saves) was one of the team’s best relievers.
The Hounds will say goodbye to seniors Irons, Brilliant, Brett Delfino, Owen Smith, Cole Conley and Henry Gomez, but hope to return a strong nucleus of 10 players next spring.
“I just want to tip my hat to the seniors and thank them for making it such a great year,” Domenichelli said. “I’ve never had so much fun coaching.”