By Nick Giannandrea
For as successful as College of the Sequoias' baseball team was on the field this past season, the Giants were a big hit in the classroom, too.
COS placed six sophomores -- pitcher Anthony Torres (Exeter High), catcher Davis Beavers (Redwood), infielder Payton Allen (Golden West) and outfielders Cade Sakamoto (Highland-Bakersfield), Donte Valdez (Redwood) and Derek Harris (Porterville) -- on the Academic All-State team.
All six achieved grade-point averages above 3.5 during the Spring 2019 and Fall 2019 semesters.
"That's one of our big goals, to do well in the classroom," said COS coach Jody Allen, who praised assistant Scott Laird's efforts in holding players accountable academically. "So it was nice to have a lot of our guys achieve that."
The Giants were 18-4 overall (tied for the third most wins in the state) and ranked No. 5 in Northern California when all spring sports were canceled by the California Community College Athletic Association as a safety precaution because of the worldwide novel coronavirus pandemic.
Valdez, who hit .261 with nine doubles and 12 RBIs, led the honorees with a 3.96 GPA.
Sakamoto, who had a 3.86 GPA, hit.306 with four doubles, three triples, a homer and 10 RBIs. As a pitcher, the left-hander went 3-2 with a 4.81 earned-run average over 39 ⅓ innings.
Beavers sported a 3.85 GPA while hitting .267 with nine RBIs. He also threw out five of nine attempted base stealers.
Harris earned a .380 GPA as he hit a team second-best .348 with one RBI.
Allen, who had a 3.75 GPA, hit .295 with seven doubles, two triples and a team-best 22 RBIs.
And Torres, who achieved a 3.54 GPA, went 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA in 12 ⅔ innings as a right-handed reliever.
Sakamoto is one of three Giants who have signed to continue their academic and athletic careers at four-year universities next season. Sakamoto is headed to Bellevue, an NAIA university based in Bellevue, Neb.
"Bellevue has had numerous former COS players, and they have all been major contributors to our program," Bruins coach Duane Monlux told the university's official website. "We expect Cade to come in and continue that tradition. He has excellent command on the mound, and has the ability to swing the bat. He is a tremendous student as well. We are thrilled that he has decided to be a part of the Bruin family."
Gonzalez, a sophomore, hit a team-leading .413 and had a team-best six stolen bases to go along with four doubles and 19 RBIs.
Bower, a freshman, went 4-1 (tied for the team lead in wins) with a .344 ERA over five starts and three relief appearances. He struck out 22 in 34 innings.
The CCCAA's Board of Directors voted in March to restore the spring season for the state's approximately 9,500 student athletes, and Jody Allen said he expects some of his 15 sophomores to take advantage of this option and return to COS.
"We had a great season going and you end up with what ifs, so you feel bad for the situation," Allen said. "But life happened and people have to move on. We're excited at some point to get the guys back involved when the time is right and we can do it safely."