Vetrovec has big league dreams

Shaun Vetrovec's game ended on Friday, and he joined the rest of his Newport Harbor High teammates on the bus. They waited for their coach, Evan Chalmers, to wrap up interviews.

Unlike most of the Sailors, Vetrovec had a long weekend ahead of him, filled with more baseball.

Vetrovec planned to head out to Tempe, Ariz., with his father Bob later that night to catch a couple of spring training games. For the past seven years, Vetrovec and his dad have made the road trip to watch the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before the season starts.

There is a game on Saturday and Sunday the father and son will attend. In a couple of years, Bob might have to make the drive by himself. When he does, he might come to see his own son in spring training.

As a kid, Vetrovec always dreamed about making the big leagues. He is 17 now and one of the top high school seniors in Southern California.

It is not that farfetched that his dream of becoming a pro can come true. Vetrovec is bound for UC Irvine after the season ends.

The 6-foot-2 right-hander made a start at Anteater Ballpark on Monday, for his high school team. He pitched the opener in the Battle of the Bay doubleheader against rival Corona del Mar.

The outing was not as dominant as the one he turned in at home five days earlier in a 3-0 win against La Habra during the Newport Elks Tournament. He threw a one-hitter and struck out a career-high 14 batters.

In the first inning against CdM, he gave up his first run of the season, and he walked two batters, as many as he had in his previous start. Thirty-four pitches are how many it took him to get out of the first.

Chalmers chalked up Vetrovec's inning to nerves pitching in UCI's yard. Vetrovec downplayed the jitters, saying he just needed to fix his release point.

At times, Vetrovec found it, allowing him to strike out eight and keep CdM at bay with only three singles. He ended up walking five and hitting two in five innings. Nevertheless, Vetrovec improved to 3-0, as the Sailors won, 7-3.

He contributed in the second game with his bat, going two for three with a run batted in and a walk. The Sailors prevailed, 9-8, sweeping the doubleheader against CdM for the first time in four seasons.

While the start to the nonleague schedule began with a 6-1 record, the Sailors' first test came on Friday. Vetrovec did not take the mound in a Sunset League opener at Huntington Beach, ranked No. 6 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll.

Chalmers went with Connor Seabold, the other senior ace on the staff, and the Sailors lost, 8-4. Vetrovec will get the nod on Wednesday, when Newport Harbor plays host to Edison.

"Hopefully he can do a number against them," Chalmers said of Vetrovec, who in 18 innings this season has struck out 31, and allowed one run and seven hits.

Vetrovec has been the one pitcher the Sailors have been able to count on. Last season, he picked up each of the team's three league wins. Two seasons ago, as a sophomore, he recorded half of Newport Harbor's six overall wins.

The seasons have not been so successful for the Sailors since Vetrovec came to the school. The program has placed last in each of the past three seasons. Vetrovec plans to change that, whether it is by pitching, playing first base or second base, or leading.

"Trying to get to the CIF playoffs," Vetrovec said. "I don't care how we finish in league, just as long as we get a chance to be in the playoffs."

The school's last postseason appearance came in 2010, the season after Newport Harbor let go of Chalmers as its coach. Chalmers is back this season, replacing Patrick Murphy, the guy who replaced him.

Vetrovec and Murphy were close, and Vetrovec said it was sad to see Murphy go after four seasons. Murphy helped develop Vetrovec into the player he is, and Vetrovec thanks him for it.

"He's a tremendous competitor," Chalmers said of Vetrovec. "I know that he's had a lot of good coaching from Pat Murphy. I would credit him with a lot of the skill work and stuff that he's done with him.

"He is just a never-say-die competitor, which I really appreciate. I use him as an example all the time with other kids as to how to approach the game and how to be positive with other players, even though you're an upper-echelon, blue-chip type of kid."

Shaun Vetrovec

Born: June 27, 1996

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 200 pounds

Sport: Baseball

Year: Senior

Coach: Evan Chalmers

Favorite food: Spaghetti and meatballs

Favorite movie: "Forrest Gump"

Favorite athletic moment: Hitting a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to beat Marina, 3-2, in a Sunset League game last year.

Week in review: Vetrovec threw a one-hitter, striking out a career-high 14 batters in the Sailors' 3-0 win at home against La Habra during the Newport Elks Tournament.

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