Eagles off to sizzling start

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High’s Ryan Baum, above, scores a run in last week’s 9-1 rout of Los Gatos.

The Los Altos High baseball team is off to its best start in more than a decade, yet coach Gabe Stewart is tempering his excitement about the Eagles’ 9-1 record.

“With our schedule and the league we play in, it’s a great accomplishment,” he said, “but we still have a lot of work to do. We can play better. We need to get more consistent and go from there.”

Shortstop Brock Susko isn’t basking in his team’s early success, either, warning that Los Altos can’t get complacent if it wants to challenge for the SCVAL De Anza Division title and make another deep run in the Central Coast Section playoffs.

“We have to take it game by game,” he said. “There’s still a long way to go.”

The season is only a third of the way over, and – as Stewart noted – “Things can change really fast in the De Anza.”

The Eagles know that from recent experience. Last year, after winning six of their seven games prior to league, they started 1-3 in the De Anza. Los Altos rallied to even its record at 4-4, only to stumble again and finish 5-9 for sixth place.

But once the CCS playoffs rolled around, the Eagles got rolling again. Seeded 11th in Division I, Los Altos knocked off four higher-seeded foes – including No. 1 Bellarmine in the final – to claim its second CCS crown in team history.

“Last year’s team really turned it on at the end when it really mattered,” said Susko, who was one of two freshmen on the squad along with Aaron Parker. “We came in (to this season) with momentum and definitely felt we could do well, and that helped us gain confidence.”

The Eagles won their first eight games, following five non-league victories with three in the De Anza. They swept rival Mountain View to open league and routed visiting Los Gatos 9-1 March 13 behind three-run homers from brothers Ben and Aaron Parker and the pitching of Connor Altinger. The host Wildcats avenged that defeat Friday, however, edging Los Altos 2-1.

The Eagles rebounded the next day, blanking Pioneer 3-0 in a home game outside of league. Susko, in his first start of the season, earned the win. He pitched three innings before giving way to Zach Fuchs, who earned the save.

“I got the results I wanted, but I need to work on getting in better shape for the rest of league and CCS,” said Susko, who joined the team late because he was playing basketball. “My teammate pitched well – he did a great job.”

Before taking the mound, junior Fuchs drove in Los Altos’ third run. His third-inning single scored Susko, who reached base on a walk. The Eagles’ other two runs came in the second; Colby Cook scored on an error and Ryan Baum singled to plate Altinger.

Baum now has a team-high 13 RBIs. The senior is batting .379, second only to Aaron Parker (.387). Baum is also the Eagles’ ace pitcher, compiling a 3-1 record with four complete games and an 0.81 ERA.

“He’s done a fantastic job,” Stewart said of Baum, who made three saves in last year’s playoffs.

He and Ben Parker serve as team captains, and Stewart said the seniors have embraced that role.

“The guys listen and trust them, because they say things that are meaningful,” the coach said. “They’ve been very helpful.”

Susko agreed.

“The captains are really good – not just with their play, but getting the team into the right mindset for the game,” he said.

Another senior, Juan Angulo, is having an impact as well. He’s batting .353 with eight RBIs.

Several underclassmen other than juniors Fuchs and Altinger have also made key contributions.

Freshman infielder Aidan Brenner has scored a team-high 10 runs, and his 12 hits ties Aaron Parker for tops on the team.

“He starts every game and leads off,” Stewart said of Brenner. “He’s emphatically gotten the job done.”

The coach added that Aaron Parker “has been a force since his freshman year” and that fellow sophomore Colby Kendall (batting .296) “is coming around nicely.”

The Eagles are slated to visit Wilcox 4 p.m. today and host the Chargers at the same time Friday.

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