Behind home plate, Jack Golbranson felt right at home.
As the sturdy catcher on the St. Monica Academy baseball team, the senior developed a rapport with the pitching staff and communicated. He also flourished with the bat, helping the Crusaders capture the Independence League Liberty Conference championship this season.
The University of Pugent Sound-bound Golbranson batted .470 with 16 doubles, three triples, four stolen bases, 24 runs and 27 runs batted in en route to being named the conference's most valuable player. It marked the second straight season that Golbranson picked up the league's top accolade.
"It's such a big honor," Golbranson said. "I love to work with the pitchers and see them hit their spots. It's the best position on the field because there's always something doing. It's a demanding position, but it's also rewarding."
St. Monica (11-4, 6-0 in conference) won its fifth league championship in a row and reached the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs where it fell to St. Bernard. The Crusaders were previously in Division VII before the CIF office underwent division realignment.
"I looked to improve my hitting and I spent extra time working at it," Golbranson said. "If you want to put in the extra work and time, you put yourself in position to become more successful."
St. Monica coach Phil Gleason said Golbranson plied his trade to become a consistent contributor.
"It's just about the way Jack goes out there and conducts himself," Gleason said. "He knows how to respond to all of the different challenges and he knows how to call a good, smart game.
"He can read the batters, excel on defense and he's also a smart hitter. He's the first guy to show up to practice and the last one to leave."
St. Monica's Beau Barry, Riley Gosnell and Jake Lessard also received all-conference honors.
Barry, a junior infielder, was selected to the first team.
Barry hit .435 with 12 doubles, eight stolen bases, 20 runs and 22 RBI.
"Beau is a very quiet leader and I see a lot of potential leadership capabilities," Gleason said. "He's been sharpening his tools across the board and he's the type of hitter who knows how to use the whole field."
Gosnell and Lessard earned spots on the second team.
Gosnell, a senior pitcher/infielder, batted .325 with eight runs and 15 RBI. The right-hander went 5-1 with a 2.98 earned-run average. He struck out 38 in 35 innings
Lessard, a senior outfielder/infielder, batted .320 with 10 runs, 12 stolen bases and 10 RBI.