Breedwell is no Jared come lately

Ruffling a few feathers was the least of Stu Clary’s concerns as his Vacaville High School baseball team entered the 2018 Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. He already had enough on his mind in figuring out how to repair the hole in his lineup if the Bulldogs were to stand any chance of winning their first section banner.

The Bulldogs accomplished their 2018 mission, climbing out of the losers bracket and beating Davis twice to take the title. On Monday, the shoe will be on the other foot with Vacaville needing to avoid a sweep by Jesuit to repeat. Vacaville has not lost consecutive games since starting 0-2 last year.

Jared Breedwell was with the junior varsity team at the start of last season. The sophomore had a .532 batting average when Clary patched his hole by promoting the sophomore with five games remaining in the regular season. A few sophomores are promoted each year, usually for no other the reason than to give them a preview of coming attractions. Breedwell earned much more than a preview, however.

Jared Breedwell usually plays right field for the Bulldogs, but he tried his luck at pitching in batting practice Friday.

Breedwell started in right field as Vacaville pulled out a 7-6 victory over Pleasant Grove in the first round of the Division I playoffs. Breedwell repaid Clary’s faith by hitting an RBI single in the seventh inning to win it.

“That was a big step in where we were going,” said senior shortstop Hunter Dorraugh, who knows all about holes after digging one at quarterback for the football team last fall when he went down with a broken collarbone.

The clutch hit by Breedwell may have made it easier for the varsity players to accept him when they could have resented him for taking playing time away from players who had been on the varsity team all season.

Discontent could have divided the dugout into those willing to welcome Breedwell and those who wondering why Breedwell was not on the varsity team in the first place if Clary and his assistants thought so highly of him. The truth be known, Clary said there was a great deal of discussion before last season that Breedwell should have been.

Clary knew what he was doing in starting Breedwell. He accepted the risk of making such a move, just as he did in 2015 when sophomores Tyler Bosetti and Troy Claunch were promoted and became starters. Clary saw in them what the University of Nevada now sees in Bosetti and Oregon State sees in Claunch. Talent is difficult to hide.

“There are specific needs when we make those moves. When we have a need, we’re going to pull the trigger,” Clary said. “We saw (Breedwell) as an upgrade. He’s a special player obviously. We did it to get better.”

That apparently went without saying because Clary did not feel the need to explain anything to his varsity players who were chomping at the bit for an opportunity to play. And if any player was not hip to Breedwell’s presence, Clary figured seniors such as Cole Ellis and Bryce Begell would nip that in the bud immediately.

“A team takes on the personalities of the seniors,” Clary explained, “They’re not going to allow things to permeate.”

Ellis and Begell took Breedwell under their wings and “made me feel like I was on the team all year,” he recalled. 

Breedwell also started the second playoff game against Elk Grove, but he did not finish it because he slipped on the plate as he was scoring and injured his right knee. All of the sudden, Clary had a hole to fill again.

Clary’s squad has stayed intact for the most part this season in going 30-2. Breedwell has gone from potentially rocking the boat last year to socking the ball as a junior to the tune of a .414 average. Much was expected of the Bulldogs in 2019 and they are one victory away from turning the hype into a historic achievement.

“There can be all the hype in the world,” Breedwell said, “but if you don’t play well, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Elvis estatic after finding way to Cal

Panic hit Cole Elvis like a fastball to the ribs when he made a verbal commitment in December 2017 to play baseball at San Jose State. Five of his Vacaville High School teammates would be going to universities such as Oregon State and Nevada, so Elvis figured he would have to take what he could get and settling for less was better than going to a junior college.

Troy Claunch was at Oregon State, Tyler Bosetti at Nevada, Shea Kramer at Utah, Braydon Altorfer at the Air Force Academy and Bryce Begell had committed a year earlier to play at Arizona. Elvis was left to choose between San Jose State and UC Davis with little reason to think a better offer would be coming his way.

“I didn’t see going anywhere else,” Elvis explained. “With two options, I really didn’t think there was a reason to wait.” 

A better offer eventually came, and that is why Elvis will be wearing a Cal uniform Friday when the Golden Bears begin a three-game series against Arizona State in Berkeley. After Elvis found a way to get away from San Jose State, Cal happened to be in a market for a catcher. The rest is almost too good to be true.

Elvis had no idea when he signed his letter of intent with San Jose State that Spartans coach Jason Hawkins was under investigation for holding illegal practices. Elvis requested to be released from his letter of intent and given the circumstances, the Spartans obliged. He did not leave as much as he escaped.

The turmoil turned into a convenient excuse for Elvis to bail out, but now he realizes he should have never pledged to San Jose State in the first place. His senior year at Vacaville High was four months old when Elvis punched the panic button in fear he would graduate with no clue where his career would continue.

Elvis may have forgiven San Jose State had he not been kept in the dark during the investigation.  He was confident Hawkins had the program going in the right direction and looked ahead to developing his skills as a catcher with assistant coach Tyler LaTorre, who was Italy’s catcher in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

“There was a lot of stuff left unsaid (during the investigation). That brought up some red flags,” Elvis recalled. “(LaTorre) took it really well. He knew there were a lot of moving parts. He tried to get me to stay. He told me that if I decided to come back, the offer would be still be there. Everything happens for a reason.”

Regardless of the reason, Elvis could not be happier at Cal. Most of his playing time as a freshman has come in nonconference games, but Elvis realizes he has to pay his dues. He has belted three of his five home runs in nonconference games on Tuesdays to earn the moniker of “Mr. Tuesday” from his teammates.

“Give me a weekend game,” Elvis quipped, “and I bet I’ll hit a homer then, too.”

His power has come as a surprise given that Elvis hit a total of three homers in his last two seasons at Vacaville. “I’m getting good pitches to hit, pitches up in the zone,” said Elvis, who still has to much to prove at the plate. His .188 average is the lowest among 11 Cal players with 40 or more at-bats this season.

Two of his nine hits came March 12 in a 13-0 victory over San Jose State. He also had two RBI and scored twice. By the way, that was on a Tuesday.