Speedy Spartans are on the run

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Gabe Harris races home in a recent game against Homestead.

The Mountain View High baseball team isn’t running away with the SCVAL De Anza Division – rival Los Altos is well on its way to doing that – but the Spartans certainly are running.

Mountain View leads the league in stolen bases. The Spartans have swiped 96 bags in 105 attempts. That’s twice as many steals as the No. 2 team, Palo Alto.

“Team speed is our best asset – and we run wisely,” said Mountain View head coach Kris Mims, whose squad sits in fifth place in the division at 7-5 and is 13-7-1 overall. “We put a lot of pressure on pitchers.”

No Spartan has applied more pressure on opposing hurlers than Aran Cox. In Friday’s 8-3 home win over Cupertino, the senior stole his 27th base (in 29 attempts) to set the single-season school record.

“Every time I’m on base, I want to steal the next base to help the team and get 90 feet closer to scoring,” said the centerfielder, who has nine more steals than he did last season.

Making Cox’s feat even more impressive is that he isn’t Mountain View’s leadoff hitter – he bats fourth in the order.

“He could be close to 40 steals by the end of the season,” Mims said. “He’s the one kid we give the green light to. He sets the tone.”

Cox has the Spartans’ third-best batting average (.379) and tops the team in runs scored (20).

Tristan Silveira leads the club in just about every other offensive category. The shortstop is first in batting average (.413), slugging percentage (.746), hits (26), RBIs (16), triples (four) and doubles (10).

“He’s a very good ball player,” Mims said of the junior, who bats third in the lineup.

Mountain View has five more players batting above .300: Evan Nance (.387), Roddy McGee (.364), Gabe Harris (.346), Logan Loeffler (.333) and Padyn Kesselring (.320).

“Our hitting has been spotty at times,” Cox said, “but we’re working on it and doing pretty well right now.”

And once these guys reach base, they’re off and running. Cox is one of four Spartans with double-digit steals: Silveira has stolen 16 bases on as many attempts; leadoff hitter Harris, whom Mims called “the fastest player on the team,” is 13 out of 14; and Tyler Woo has 10 in 13 tries.

“We’re good as a team,” Cox said of swiping bags, “and once (opposing pitchers) know that, they kind of get scared and have to get extra cautious and worry about it.”

At least Mountain View’s pitchers don’t have to concern themselves with that. The Spartans’ staff boasts a 2.18 ERA and has thrown five complete games.

“Our starting pitching has been very good,” Mims said. “No one is overpowering – 85 miles per hour is about their top speed – but we throw strikes.”

Jared Norris and James Hoyt each have eight starts, and the coach anticipates utilizing both of them in next month’s Central Coast Section playoffs. Senior Norris has the best record (4-2) and lowest ERA (1.63) on the team. Hoyt, a junior, is 3-3 with a 2.92 ERA.

“Hoyt had a rough start, but he’s coming around,” Mims said. “He’s better at home, where he’s more comfortable; he pitched a shutout in our CCS opener last year. Norris is a proven senior who has pitched on the road for CCS, and he’s learned from that.”

Norris picked up the win Friday against Cupertino, allowing two earned runs and eight hits while striking out seven and walking just one over five frames.

Hoyt was the winning pitcher in Mountain View’s 3-2 victory at Cupertino two days earlier. He limited the Pioneers to one earned run and three hits in a complete-game effort that included five strikeouts.

Woo scored the winning run in the top of the seventh. He reached base on an error, stole second, moved to third on a grounder and – after tagging up on a fly ball – scored on a collision at home plate in which the ball popped out of the catcher’s glove.

“It was an ugly win, but we’ll take it,” Mims said.

Mountain View, which has won 11 of its last 14 games, is set to face the host team at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the first round of the Bellarmine Easter Classic.

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