May 22, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

HONORING NORTHWOOD: Baseball players made coach ‘proud to be a part of their lives’

Northwood seniors from left (back row) Aaron Firth, Andrew Kotin, Matthew Stankovich, Dylan Barry and Connor Belsby; middle row Dylan Yee, Arthur Liu, Jonathan Lo and Cole Swancoat; front row, Alex Ibasitas, Jonathon Josiah-Moody and Adam Fujiwara. (Photo courtesy Northwood baseball)

Northwood High baseball coach Rob Stuart didn’t really know what to expect when the 2020 season began.

But he soon found out it was a special group of players, which wound up 4-4 when the spring sports schedule was cancelled throughout the state. The Timberwolves defeated University 8-5 in their only Pacific Coast League game.

“Headed into the 2020 season we had a lot of inexperienced players to fill roles so it was hard to tell what was going to happen,” Stuart said.

“It soon became pretty clear that we had a relentless group, mostly seniors that were hungry, had something to prove and liked playing as a team. They worked together and supported each other better than any group that I have had in the last 20 years.

“When things didn’t start well this year I talked to them about what type of legacy would they would leave, what purpose would they take away from being a part this team, what type of friendships and sacrifices would they make and how would they deal with the challenges that come with a sport where failing is so prevalent. 

“Most of the time you wonder if your players understand how special it is to be part of a team, if they take playing for granted or give their all. Without hesitation I know that these guys would have walked away successful, with memories, experiences and friendships that will last a lifetime. The 2020 seniors will leave an impact on my life as lasting as any team I have ever coached.

“It was a mixture of characters, personalities, thoughtfulness and tough competitors that all cared. They made coming to practice so fun and enjoyable. The success we had during the games as a team and individually made me proud to be a part of their lives.

“So I would like to thank the 2020 Northwood baseball seniors for their commitment to our program, the team and each other. You are a wonderful group of bright, energetic and talented players. As disappointing as this season is for you … hold your heads high. For in my eyes you are champions!”

Stuart also talked about his seniors:

No. 16 Dylan Barry: He was the team leader in relief pitching appearances and innings played.

No. 8 Connor Belsby: Belsby was the team captain and two-year varsity letter winner. “Season highlight was three strikeouts vs. Hemet in relief,” Stuart said.

No. 20 Aaron Firth: Firth was a two-year starting varsity catcher and team captain and “leader on and off the field,” Stuart said.

No. 1 Adam Fujiwara: A two-sport standout, he led seniors in stolen bases. He is headed to Chapman University to play football.

No. 23 Alex Ibasitas: Heled the team in multiple offensive categories this season, including 12 hits in 24 at bats, Stuart said.

No. 14 Andrew Kotin: A three-year varsity letterman, he wound up his career with 10 wins, striking out 76 in 81 innings and was an all-league pick.

No. 34 Arthur Liu: A three-year varsity letter winner; he had 73 strikeouts in 78 career innings and was an all-league selection.

No. 5 Jonathan Lo: He pitched and played first base while batting .353 this season. He was a two-year letterwinner.

No. 3 Johnathan Josiah-Moody: He was a three-sport senior team manager and according to Stuart was an “All-American teammate and young man.”

No. 29 Matthew Stankovich: A two sport athlete, he started five games in center field and had a relief appearance as a pitcher.

No. 13 Cole Swancoat: “He was a standout senior in several categories and hit the only homerun of the season for the T’Wolves,” Stuart said.

No. 7 Dylan Yee: A pitcher and outfielder, he was a valuable defensive player and a base-stealing threat.

SEND US YOUR PHOTOS!

If you took pictures before the season, we would like to share team pictures of spring teams with our readers. These can be pictures of seniors or the entire team and we will run these throughout the coming months to salute the dedicated athletes of Orange County who have had their seasons cut short. Please email pictures, names of the players and some highlights to timburt@ocsportszone.com so we can share with our readers. Horizontal pictures similar in size to the one above work best. Please do not take pictures now for us.