Daily Pilot High School Athlete of the Week: Wolfson provides Sage Hill's growth

Daily Pilot

A.J. Wolfson can't pinpoint why he's grown almost a foot since his freshman season. The 6-foot-4 senior was his father Ken's height, 5-7, when he entered high school.

Wolfson said on his mother Rita's side there is some size. She is the last of 11 siblings. Rita, however, is only an inch taller than Ken when she's not wearing heels.

Maybe the huge growth spurt has something to do with Wolfson's diet.

"[I eat] whatever is in front of me," said Wolfson, whose favorite food is any kind he can put on his plate at an all-you-can-eat restaurant.

Wolfson isn't sure what or who deserves credit for his imposing build on a baseball field.

One reason why he stands out in the batter's box is due to Ken. Wolfson learned the game of baseball from his father.

"My dad's a short guy and he taught me how to play … short guy's baseball," Wolfson said. "I don't strike out that often. I have a pretty short swing. If I get under a ball, I weigh 200 pounds, so it will go."

With Wolfson's bat and right arm, the Sage Hill School baseball team has reached new heights. Wolfson has big plans in store for the Lightning.

Wolfson will start on the mound in Sage Hill's first quarterfinal appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs. The Lightning (19-5) play host to fourth-seeded Vasquez of Acton on Friday at 3:15 p.m.

The start will be Wolfson's second this postseason and third pitching outing. In the previous two stints combined, Wolfson has allowed only one run, four hits, and has struck out seven in six innings.

Wolfson has shown he can be as effective as a starter and closer. He won Sage Hill's first-round game last week against Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley and saved the second one Tuesday against Windward of Los Angeles.

Coach Andy Berglund counts on Wolfson to be more than just efficient. Before the playoffs, Berglund pulled Wolfson aside. The Lightning had just finished short of winning their third straight Academy League title.

Berglund still offered Wolfson positive news. Wolfson earned the Academy League MVP award outright after sharing it last season.

"You definitely deserve that," Berglund told Wolfson, who is 7-1 with an earned-run average around 2.00 and has 62 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings. "You're our force. You've carried us a lot of the year. Now, I want you to use your God given ability and dominate the way that you can.

"He's a man among boys out here."

That wasn't always the case with Wolfson. He didn't become Sage Hill's single-season home-run king overnight.

Shoulder and hamstring Injuries almost derailed Wolfson's first two seasons with the Lightning. Wolfson said he transferred from Laguna Hills to Sage Hill as a sophomore because his parents wanted a more challenging academic load for their son.

Wolfson soon began dealing with another challenge, one he couldn't stop. He was growing too fast.

Wolfson said he grew five inches after his freshman season at Laguna Hills. Life at 6-feet wasn't so easy when he tried to field grounders and hit the ball.

"I was so uncoordinated," Wolfson said.

Berglund remembers how awkward Wolfson looked at times. He worked with Wolfson's footwork and eye-hand coordination until it improved enough that he could trust him at third base and in the batter's box.

Ever since, Berglund has believed in Wolfson. In return, Wolfson has turned into a leader.

Wolfson ranks second on the team in hitting with a batting average close to .450. He has a team-best five home runs, to go with 30 runs batted in and 11 doubles.

"He told me he took what we talked about to heart, as far as dominating wherever you're at," Berglund said of Wolfson, who next season plans to walk on at Tulane University or play at UC San Diego. "He can dominate at third. He can dominate on the mound. He can dominate in the box.

"Whoever he's going to play for [in college], the coach is going to have a very talented kid to work with. He's come a long way since his sophomore year when I first got him."

A.J. Wolfson Hometown: Laguna HillsBorn: April 6, 1992Height: 6-foot-4Weight: 200 poundsSport: BaseballPosition: Pitcher/third baseCoach: Andy BerglundFavorite food: SushiFavorite movie: "Patton"Favorite athletic moment: "I threw two no-hitters back-to-back … a long time ago. It was before high school."Week in review: Struck out four, allowed one run and two hits in four innings and picked up the win in Sage Hill's 21-1 rout of Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs. Wolfson went three for four with four RBIs.

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