Deep baseball squad seeks one more title with star on mound

Originally published on March 13, 2015

Senior pitcher Craig Colen throwing heat in the varsity baseball team’s 4–3 victory in the championship game last season on May 6. The team is striving to win another title this year. Photo by Karina Huft

Three-peat in the works?

Following last season’s championship victory, the varsity baseball team is looking to ride a deep roster to a third consecutive title this year.

The Cardinals have the luxury of starting the season with a highly experienced team, as twelve out of twenty four players are seniors. With so many veterans, the team has nothing but high expectations for the year. “The goal this year is to win our third straight championship. With proven seniors and a number of promising underclassmen, we have a great shot at winning it all,” senior outfielder and captain Markus Min said. According to head coach John Donohue, the Cardinals are very fortunate to have so much experience. “Nobody else has twelve seniors. It’s very unusual, as last year we only had five,” Donohue said.

“I think a big focus this year, with this team and what they’re capable of doing, will be not to wait for great things to happen, but to make them happen.”

The team also has the advantage of having a deep roster. There are eight starting caliber pitchers on the roster, which is an unusually high number. The Cardinals return three seniors that were named to the Academic Athletic Association All City Team last year: Min, first baseman Nick Rolph, and pitcher Craig Colen, who was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year. “It sounds like a cliche, but our team is so solid all around that we just need to make sure we play hard and play together every game. With a lot of great players this year, it is complicated to decide the starters from the backups,” Rolph said. The team has all the tools to be successful, and simply needs to translate that to the field, according to assistant coach Emil DeAndreis. “I think a big focus this year, with this team and what they’re capable of doing, will be not to wait for great things to happen, but to make them happen,” DeAndreis said.

The team has prepared well for the season by training and holding workouts in the past months. “These guys work hard in the offseason so that when game time comes, they’re ready. They have waited for their opportunity to shine, and are committed and focused,” DeAndreis said. Donohue also noted that practices so far have been outstanding. “We had batting practice the other day, and I thought I was watching the San Francisco Giants hit,” Donohue joked.

“We had batting practice the other day, and I thought I was watching the San Francisco Giants hit.”

The experience will be key down the stretch for the Cardinals, as the team is looking to send long time coach Donohue out with a final championship win. “We want to make sure his last year here is a great one,” Rolph said. Donohue has been coaching Lowell for thirty three years and has 719 wins, the second most out of all active Northern California coaches. “There is a prestige to playing for Donohue these days, just because he’s become iconic in California prep sports. There’s no doubt about it. But these guys play for Lowell baseball and each other. I think when they suit up every day, they’re most excited about the baseball and the brotherhood,” DeAndreis said. While players recognize the implications of Donohue’s impending retirement, they still want to remain focused on what is happening on the field. “The pressure is always there to work hard and maintain the title of city champs. We know that Donohue will never truly leave the program, he is forever a part of the Lowell baseball family,” junior outfielder Anderson Giang said. Meanwhile, Donohue has no worries about the future of the team after the season, as he is confident that assistant coaches Romeo Aurelio, DeAndreis and Daryl Simeon will continue to lead the team in the right direction.

Focusing on this season, Donohue tabbed Galileo and Balboa as teams to watch out for in the AAA. Outside of the conference, the team is looking forward to a couple of very competitive tournaments, as they started the season off by heading to Hawaii on February 19 to participate in the Stanley Costales Tournament. They lost their opening game to Walakea 15–5, but finished up with wins against Pac-Five and Honoka’a by scores of 2–1 and 12–0, respectively. The team will then go down to San Diego for the Mike Morrow Tournament on March 31. “It’s a great chance to get outside the San Francisco public school bubble, which can get stagnant. Everyone’s excited to see how we stand against other teams in the country,” DeAndreis said. They began league play on February 26 against Mission, winning 14–0.

Senior fireballer with high expectations after historic season

This season, all eyes will be on Lowell senior pitcher Craig Colen. He put up a dominant stat line for the Cardinals last season, producing a 1.16 ERA over 66 innings pitched. After impressing scouts while playing for the Northern California team, comprised of top junior players in the region, that won the California Baseball Coaches Association Junior Showcase Title last year, he committed to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, which is ranked 12 in the nation by Sporting News. Louisville Slugger named him Second — Team All American before the start of this season. “I would describe last season as incredibly difficult and enormously exciting. It helped me get the success I’ve worked so hard to get my whole life,” Colen said.

“He has solid mechanics and a competitive edge — he doesn’t take loss or failure well.”

Colen transferred to Lowell from Lincoln after his sophomore season. He has the look of a big time pitcher, being 6’ 3” and long limbed, and coaches immediately were impressed. “Craig came in here from Lincoln with the framework to be something really special. He has solid mechanics and a competitive edge — he doesn’t take loss or failure well, and to a degree I think that is paramount in the development of a young athlete; it keeps him hungry,” DeAndreis said. Colen credits the Lowell staff for helping him improve as a player. “The coaches have helped me not only improve my game but also my physical and mental strength. They’ve given me new motivation that I can use to push myself forward,” Colen said. Teammates admire Colen’s prowess as a pitcher. “He has a lot of great pitches that he can throw for strikes and he is always incredibly focused and has great composure on the mound,” senior first baseman Nick Rolph said.

Colen on the mound in the Cardinals’ 4–0 win over Balboa last season on March 13. Colen had a 1.16 ERA last year and is heading to pitch at Cal Poly next season. Photo by Amber Ly

Colen can bring the heat, reaching 88 miles per hour when he throws, but his control sets him apart from other pitchers. According to DeAndreis, he also has two excellent off-speed pitches, the slider and curveball, which he can also pitch for strikes. Colen is also continuing to work on developing another pitch, the change-up. The average high school pitcher pitches a fastball around 80 mph, an average college pitcher 88 mph, and an average MLB pitcher 92 mph. “My strength is exercising effective control over the strike zone and my pitch repertoire,” Colen said.

“But when that kid came from an inner city public school, and pretty much built himself from the ground up, it’s historic.”

Colen is looking forward to building upon last season in his senior year as he prepares for college. “My main goal this season is to gain a lot of muscle. Going into college baseball, I want to get off to a good start in the weight room. I also want to just work hard and have fun,” Colen said.

According to Donohue, Colen is one of the best players to ever come out of Lowell. “It’s no surprise for a kid like that to sign in the early signing period to a nationally ranked baseball team and get named an All American. But when that kid came from an inner city public school, and pretty much built himself from the ground up, it’s historic,” DeAndreis said.