Ocean View High senior Gavin Kennedy thanks his parents, Monica and Sean, for his work ethic.
“My mom’s a cop and my dad’s a fireman, so I definitely got the work ethic put in me at an early age,” Gavin Kennedy said.
That work ethic can be seen in the classroom, where Kennedy has a 3.9 grade-point average. It’s perhaps more obvious on the baseball diamond, where Kennedy is nearly unhittable as a pitcher.
The Cal State Fullerton signee, a right-handed pitcher in his third year on varsity, put together back-to-back big Friday starts as he attempts to lead the Seahawks to their first Golden West League title in three years on varsity. Kennedy has been everything a Friday pitcher is supposed to be for Ocean View (12-8, 6-0 in league).
He threw a complete game, two-hit shutout on March 15 in a 2-0 home win over Segerstrom that moved Ocean View into outright first place in league. But Kennedy outdid himself in his next start, as he fired a no-hitter Friday in a 4-0 victory at Western.
Kennedy struck out 10 and walked two in the 96-pitch effort. He didn’t have to pitch out of jams like the Segerstrom game, when he got out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning. Still, Ocean View coach Tanner VanMaanen has confidence in Kennedy no matter the situation.
“He doesn’t [get nervous],” VanMaanen said. “We didn’t get anybody loose [in the bullpen]. Last year, he had a phenomenal year as well, and he did a lot of growing up there. The biggest thing he’s done so well this year is he’s turned into a leader. The guys respect him, they feed off him. I believe every second that he’s not nervous. It could be 1-0 in the CIF championship game, and I guarantee we ain’t nervous. He’s just focused. He’s locked in. He knows what’s expected of him, and he does it.”
Not only is Kennedy the Seahawks’ best overall player, but he’s also their hardest worker. He shared Golden West League MVP honors last season, when he went 8-2 with a 1.20 earned-run average.
This year, Kennedy is 6-1 with a minuscule 0.22 ERA. He has allowed just one earned run in 41 innings pitched.
Kennedy helped himself in the Segerstrom game with a run-scoring single, and he has also been one of Ocean View’s best hitters after a slow start. Through Friday, he was hitting .322 for the Seahawks with a home run and 14 RBIs.
Kennedy said the Segerstrom game felt like a playoff game in terms of intensity. Still, he said he didn’t get nervous, even in the pressure situations. That is a trait that will serve him well at the next level, in a prestigious program like Cal State Fullerton.
“To me, stress is more of a negative,” he said. “I don’t use it as a motivator. I feel like if I let go of stress, then my mindset is going to be focused and I’m going to perform better … Any time I’m on the mound I’m there, I’m in the zone. I don’t really think anything else matters. If I put in a good outing, then we have a better chance to win.”
Kennedy grew up around winning in Ocean View Little League, which won the Little League World Series in 2011 with players like future Huntington Beach High stars Nick Pratto and Hagen Danner.
At first, Kennedy said he didn’t really pitch much, just playing shortstop. But he grew six inches as a freshman in high school, from 5 feet 6 to 6 feet tall, and his game has blossomed as well. He’s part of a standout Ocean View pitching staff that also includes No. 2 starter Sheldon Knowles, another senior, and junior left-handed pitcher Shane Hoodman.
Kennedy’s young brother Tristan is a relief pitcher for the Seahawks. But the elder Kennedy is the leader of the pack.
“His transformation from freshman year to senior year is amazing,” said Ocean View senior center fielder Sean Muirhead, who has known Kennedy since they were in third grade. “Being a close friend of his, I’ve seen his dedication to baseball. How much time he’s put in, I think it’s really paid off for him. I know he’ll keep putting work in and trying to get better, take it to the next level.
“I think he’s going to dominate [at Cal State Fullerton]. His dedication to the sport is really amazing to me. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Ocean View is surging after starting the season 3-5. The Seahawks don’t have team captains, but Gavin Kennedy’s role is clear.
“It’s fun to watch, especially since this is my fourth year,” VanMaanen said. “He’s one of my first four-year guys to come through. It’s fun to watch him have grown all four years to be the player he is. His biggest stride is in leadership. He’ll get on guys and hold them accountable, so it’s good. At the very beginning, when we struggled, we just weren’t scoring runs. It wasn’t because we weren’t hitting it hard or striking out a bunch. He just kept the guys focused, which was great.”
Born: Jan. 10, 2001
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 6 feet 2
Weight: 165 pounds
Coach: Tanner VanMaanen
Favorite food: Macaroni and cheese
Favorite movie: “Lucy”
Favorite athletic moment: As a sophomore, pitching in the Seahawks’ 1-0 nine-inning loss against Crean Lutheran in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs. Kennedy went eight shutout innings.