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Baseball player of the year: Lucas Herbert, San Clemente
The player tabbed to be the best pitcher in Southern California high school baseball was unable to play for San Clemente almost the entire season.
The Tritons moved forward, so far forward they won the Sea View League championship, won the prestigious National High School Invitational and advanced to the semifinals in the CIF-SS playoffs.
Lucas Herbert led them there, even with highly regarded Kolby Allard missing because of a back injury. For that leadership and his hitting and fielding production, Herbert is the Register’s player of the year.
The senior catcher batted .417 with eight home runs and 28 RBI. He had 50 hits, scored 26 runs, and hit 15 doubles and two triples. Herbert’s OPS was an impressively high 1.271.
Those numbers reflect Herbert’s talent, but they don’t explain why he was so important to the team.
“Really, it was his competitive fire,” San Clemente coach Dave Gellatly said. “Lucas is probably the fiercest competitor I’ve ever coached.
“Then there’s his leadership. With Lucas, it was never about him but it was always about the team. He didn’t care about individual accomplishments.”
Some did. Many top college programs offered Herbert scholarships; he accepted the UCLA offer. The Atlanta Braves drafted Herbert this week in the second round (54th pick overall).
Herbert appreciates that attention, although his focus was on making sure the Tritons kept winning after Allard was sidelined by a back injury in mid-March.
“We just pushed that aside,” Herbert said. “We figured that he wasn’t going to be with us the whole season. So all of our guys, we just continued to play for each other.”
Herbert enrolled at San Clemente after his family relocated to the city following a move from Georgia. Before moving to Georgia, the Herberts lived in Pasadena, which explains the UCLA preference.
“We lived near the Rose Bowl,” Herbert said, “so I became a fan of UCLA football and then I found out that UCLA had top-of-the-line baseball. Once they offered me, which was the first really big offer I got and that was my top school anyway, I figured I might as well commit right away.”
Still, Herbert figures he will sign with the Braves within the next couple of weeks.
“I want to get my professional career started,” he said.
UCLA and the Braves project Herbert as a catcher.
“I love playing catcher,” he said. “You’re in on every play.”
Gellatly said Herbert already has the skills to be a top catcher.
“Lucas is able to move his body to a position where he didn’t really have to frame pitches,” Gellatly said. “He got us a lot of strike calls on pitches that shouldn’t have been strikes.
“You can’t teach that. You try to, but with Lucas it was natural instincts.”
Then there is Herbert’s arm strength. Gellatly figures Herbert picked off nearly 30 runners who took unwisely large leads at first base.
“He made us look good as coaches,” said Gellatly, laughing, “because we never called any of those pickoffs.”
Herbert was happy to do whatever it took, offensively or defensively, to help the Tritons have an outstanding season.
“We had such a great group of guys on this team,” Herbert said.
Herbert was the greatest of them.
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