The St. Margaret’s baseball team has overcome a mess of injuries, compiled an impressive winning record and put themselves into a position that the team has not been in for more than 10 years.
The Tartans (14-7, 11-3 league) played Thursday against Oxford Academy in a do-or-die game that would decide the Academy League Champion.
St. Margaret’s hasn’t won a baseball league title since 2001, six years before head coach Mel Taylor got the job as skipper.
When Taylor arrived the lacrosse craze was sweeping southern Orange County.
“Lacrosse was just coming on, and it was taking away a lot of players who would normally play baseball,” Taylor said. “But now the newness of lacrosse is going away and some players are returning.”
Until this year, the team had been stuck in limbo, hovering between third- and fourth-place with a handful of CIF playoff appearances sprinkled in between. But this year, they have made a powerful surge toward the top, using the team motto “Get Better Every Day” as their personal battle cry.
“(The motto) is the philosophy we build on,” Taylor said. “This year the kids have really bought into it.”
The Tartans run for a league title seemed improbable at the start of the season. In a matter of weeks four of their scheduled opening day starters were sidelined by injuries.
The most troublesome spot was at the catcher position.
Senior starter Matt Miyamoto, a first-team All-League backstop in 2011, hurt himself playing soccer so Taylor looked to his backup, junior Max Carr, to fill the void. But just as quick as the position was filled a broken thumb and four torn ligaments sidelined Carr and Taylor had to go to his backup’s, backup. The only problem was there was no third option.
Taylor asked sophomore Carter Jahn, who had basically no previous catching experience, to step in.
“Losing (Miyamoto) was tough and then to lose our backup was even tougher…we were scrambling.” Taylor said.
According to Taylor, Jahn filled in just fine and kept the Tartans afloat until the team got healthy.
It wasn’t until a two-game series against Crean Lutheran, which started April 3, that the Tartans were back to full strength, fielding a team that looked more like what Taylor had in mind for opening day way back in early March. The motto of “Get Better Every Day” was seeping into the team’s attitude and now with a healthy roster, they could do just that.
In the first game against Crean, the Tartans scrapped their way to a 4-3 victory and ended the game on a walk-off double.
The next game was just as tight. Tartan junior Harrison White pitched a two hit gem and St. Margaret’s won 2-0.
Those games sparked a four-game winning streak, pulling them six games above .500.
Oxford Academy has won the Academy League three years running. Sage Hill has also won it in recent years and Crean Lutheran is always a threat. Those teams are the ones that historically give the Tartans the most trouble. Heading into the May 10 game against Oxford Academy, St. Margaret’s is boasting a 5-3 record against those three schools combined, including a come from behind walk-off win May 8 against Oxford Academy.
With that win fresh in their mind St. Margaret’s can see the light at the end of the tunnel that is a league championship.
“(I told them) we are playing a beatable team (in Oxford Academy),” Taylor said. “This team has set goals and they have set their own personal goals…They are at the point where they are about to achieve them.”