When Evan Chalmers became the baseball coach at Newport Harbor High in December, the first player he reached out to was Shaun Vetrovec. This wasn't Chalmers' first go around with the Sailors, yet he needed Vetrovec on his side.
The coach Chalmers replaced was the one Vetrovec grew close to during his first three seasons at the school. Patrick Murphy was the coach who taught Vetrovec how to be a man.
Now, it was time for Vetrovec to accept a new coach in his life, a coach who used to be an assistant at rival Corona del Mar. Chalmers returned to the job at Newport Harbor he lost five years ago.
Vetrovec bought into Chalmers' philosophy, and then he sold it to the rest of the team the best way he knows how. He led by example.
All the hard work and never taking a day off paid off for Vetrovec. His senior year proved to be the greatest of his high school career. The Sailors broke through, going from a last-place team in the Sunset League the past three years to one that made the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
Vetrovec played in his first postseason game and Chalmers managed in the playoffs for the first time as a head coach. Vetrovec's right arm made it all possible, and for that, he is the Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team Player of the Year.
Vetrovec finished 7-4 with a 1.16 earned-run average and 100 strikeouts in 721/3 innings. He threw seven complete games, including two shutouts. In three of the seven-inning outings, he mowed down 14, 15 and 11 batters, respectively.
Down the stretch, Vetrovec, who earned first-team All-Sunset League and third-team All-Orange County honors, turned it on. With three league games left in the regular season, all must wins for the Sailors to secure an at-large playoff berth, Vetrovec started on the mound twice. He went the distance and won each time.
In the first game against Los Alamitos, Vetrovec threw a two-hitter with eight strikeouts in the Sailors' 4-0 win at home. Six days later, in a league finale, he allowed three hits and struck out six in a 4-1 victory at Marina. Vetrovec also drove in the game-winning run against Marina, sending Newport Harbor, the league's fourth-place team, on its way to its first postseason appearance in four years and its second in 24 years.
"I think all three of our last league games really meant a lot to us as a team," said Vetrovec, who helped the Sailors finish the regular season with a .500 overall record for the first time since 2010 and 6-9 in league. "Those were all win-or-go-home-type situations. We had to win each of those in order to have a chance to make [the] playoffs [because we had to post at least a .500 record to be considered for the playoffs as an at-large entry]. I was lucky enough to pitch two of those games and it was very special. I loved seeing how close and together we all were in those final three games."
The three straight triumphs in league put the Sailors in a wild-card game against Orange Lutheran. Leading up to the road game, Newport Harbor boasted two strong options to throw at the third-place team from the Trinity League, Vetrovec and Connor Seabold, who's headed to Cal State Fullerton.
The move to go with Seabold made sense. It was Seabold's turn in the rotation, and Vetrovec said the decision to save him for a possible first-round game was made by him, Chalmers and pitching coach Ryan Clear. Vetrovec started at first base, where he usually played when he didn't pitch.
"I had thrown a lot of innings in the season, especially in the back end," said Vetrovec, whose last six starts saw him go seven innings every time and average 111 pitches. "I had thrown [a season-high 125] pitches in the win against Marina, and it would have been on one less day of rest than I had been used to. We had no doubt that the game was in good hands with Connor. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who threw when [Orange Lutheran's Toby Dunlap] throws a perfect game."
The Sailors' 7-0 setback to Orange Lutheran would not be the last time Vetrovec represented Newport Harbor. He played in the Kiwanis Club of Greater Anaheim's 47th Orange County North-South All-Star Game and the Ryan Lemmon All-Star Game between the Sunset League and Century League.
Vetrovec, who batted .346 with 16 runs batted in, five doubles and 13 walks, said he would miss suiting up for the Sailors and playing in front of the home crowd. Fans can still watch him compete on the next level. He won't be too far away, as he's playing for UC Irvine next season.
"He has meant so much to this team," Chalmers said of Vetrovec, a three-time Dream Team selection who accounted for four of the Sailors' six wins in league play, a year after collecting all three of the team's league victories in 2013. "This season Shaun knew there would be some growing pains with so many new players in starting positions. However, he always continued to lead this team, showed great patience, and remained positive even through rough patches during the season. He always encouraged players to work hard and buy into the program and new techniques and philosophy that a new coach brings.
"He is one of the most competitive people I have ever met, and I have always told him and others that if I was starting a business of any kind, I would make Shaun Vetrovec my first hire."
The rest of the Dream Team, listed by position:
The senior pitcher gave the Sailors a formidable 1-2 punch. Seabold went 4-7 with a 3.50 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 60 innings, tossed four complete games, and recorded one save. He finished with a .424 batting average, a .473 on-base percentage, a .482 slugging percentage, 20 runs and five doubles. He made the All-Sunset League first team as a center fielder, played in the Ryan Lemmon All-Star Game, and was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 19th round (No. 571 overall), though he's heading to Cal State Fullerton to play baseball. Seabold is a two-time Dream Team selection.
Corona del Mar
The senior pitcher proved to be the Sea Kings' ace, and for the second straight season, the left-hander was the team's lone starter with a winning record. Bound for Auburn, he finished 5-4 with a 3.28 ERA, along with one shutout, coming in a 2-0 win against Irvine in which he allowed three hits. In 47 innings, he struck out 23. He was All-Pacific Coast League first team, played in the Ryan Lemmon All-Star Game, and hit .342 with 10 RBIs, seven doubles, 16 runs and 16 walks. He is a two-time Dream Team selection.
The freshman pitcher performed like no first-year player for the Lightning. Super lived up to his name in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs at Sherman Oaks Buckley, where he recorded his first complete game and led Sage Hill to a 4-2 win and into the second round for the first time in four years. He allowed one earned run, three hits, while striking out three. Super, a second-team All-Academy League pick, went 7-2 with a 1.94 ERA. In 572/3 innings, he struck out 45.
The senior catcher handled two of the top right-handed pitchers in Orange County for the Sailors. McWhertor helped Newport Harbor's staff finish with a 2.01 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 181 innings. The two-time Dream Team selection hit .305 with 10 RBIs and five doubles.
The sophomore first baseman hit lights-out for the Lightning. Bock led the area in batting average (.456), RBIs (29) and home runs (three). A first-team All-Academy League pick, he had a .563 on-base percentage and a .764 slugging percentage, with 29 runs and 22 stolen bases. He is a two-time Dream Team selection.
The sophomore shortstop is the face of the Mustangs' future. He batted .400 with 13 RBIs, four doubles, two triples and 16 runs. He finished with a .500 on-base percentage. He was named to the All-Orange Coast League first team.
The sophomore third baseman provided a big bat for the Eagles, as well as a capable right arm. He hit .390 with 20 RBIs, seven doubles, one triple and 11 runs. As a pitcher, the first-team All-Orange Coast League performer went 3-4 with a 2.57 ERA and he threw three complete games.
The junior stepped in at shortstop after Christian Watson was sidelined with an injury to open the season and Mahaffy more than filled in for the Sailors. Mahaffy garnered second-team All-Sunset League accolades after hitting .346 with four RBIs and one double. He will most likely move to second base next season.
The senior left fielder made a smooth transition from first base, where he played last season for the Eagles. He was a consistent hitters and a great bunter. The first-team All-Orange Coast League pick hit .396 with 17 RBIs, nine doubles and 14 runs.
The senior center fielder used his speed to get on base and swipe bases for the Lightning. The second-team All-Academy League selection batted .418 with 11 RBIs and one double. Twenty-two of his 23 hits were singles, many of which were infield hits. He scored 22 runs and stole 19 bases.
The junior right fielder was the area's only All-CIF Southern Section honoree, having made the Division 6 team. A first-team All-Academy League pick, he hit .439 with one home run, 23 RBIs, eight doubles, one triple, 30 runs, 22 walks and 18 stolen bases. He finished with a .666 slugging percentage and a .581 on-base percentage. As a pitcher, Reposa was 6-2 with a 3.50 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 40 innings.
Corona del Mar
The senior makes the Dream Team as a utility player after seeing time at first base, third base and on the mound for the Sea Kings. He made the All-Pacific Coast League second team and played in the Ryan Lemmon All-Star Game. He hit .364 with 10 RBIs, four doubles and 12 runs. As a pitcher, Duncan finished 1-5 with a 3.64 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 322/3 innings.