One month into the high school baseball season, pitchers are stepping forward to serve notice they’ll be tough to beat when the playoffs begin on April 30. Others are just now getting into shape and could soon reach peak form.
When it comes to singling out the best of the best, that’s an easy choice. Jared Jones of La Mirada has a slider that has been simply unhittable.
Last week, he threw a perfect game against Bellflower, striking out 10. He has a 1.05 ERA in 26 2/3 innings with 42 strikeouts.
“I’ve never seen a perfect game live, and that was pretty fun,” coach Jimmy Zurn said. “It was incredible. It was one of those days everything he threw was around the zone. He had 18 balls out of 79 pitches.”
Jones, a junior committed to USC, was highly touted before the season and is living up to expectations. He stopped pitching for two months before the season to protect his arm for the long season ahead.
Now it’s up to Zurn to make sure Jones is ready for the difficult demands of trying to win a Southern Section Division 1 championship.
“I’ve planned out starts for the whole year,” he said. “We want them pitching their best at the back end of league and the playoffs.”
Here’s a look at other pitchers producing impressive opening month performances:
Cameron Repetti, Cypress. Whether starting or relieving, Repetti has been delivering against top opponents to lead the Centurions to a 12-1 start. He throws 2-0 curveballs for strikes, gets plenty of ground-ball outs and isn’t afraid of pressure-filled moments. He’s 4-1 with two saves and an 0.42 ERA.
Dawson Netz, Pasadena Maranatha. Good luck to Division 2 playoff opponents if you draw Netz, who struck out 12 in eight shutout innings on Tuesday night against Sun Valley Village Christian. He has one walk and 50 strikeouts in 32 innings.
Joey Estes, Lancaster Paraclete. With a 0.21 ERA, Estes just doesn’t give up runs. He pitched the Spirits to 1-0 wins over Canyon Country Canyon and West Hills Chaminade and a 3-0 win over L.A. Windward.
Aaron Suval, Agoura. He’s 5-0 with 52 strikeouts and a 1.85 ERA for a team in first place in the Coastal Canyon League.
Max Rajcic, Orange Lutheran. If you’re looking for a difference-maker in the Trinity League, Rajcic could be that pitcher. He’s 2-0 with an 0.38 ERA and figures to be turned loose in the coming weeks in preparation for the Division 1 playoffs.
Preston Howey, Arcadia. The junior is 7-0 and struck out 12 in the Babe Herman Tournament championship game on Wednesday night, helping the Apaches improve to 14-0. Howey has a 0.42 ERA while allowing just 15 hits in 33 1/3 innings.
Cole Kitchen, Woodland Hills El Camino Real. He’s the biggest surprise this season. Kitchen used to be considered El Camino Real’s best hitter. He didn’t pitch much last season because of a foot injury. Now he’s an ace, having given up just 12 hits in 25 2/3 innings with 39 strikeouts.
Lucas Gordon, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. After elbow surgery last season, Gordon has been slowly gaining momentum, adding one inning each week. He has been spectacular. In his latest five-inning stint, he surrendered no hits and struck out eight against Loyola. He has given up one run in 15 innings.
Evan Fitterer, Aliso Niguel. Fitterer is 5-0 with a 1.25 ERA. He had a 1-0 shutout of Dana Hills and threw six innings in a 5-0 win over Huntington Beach Edison.
Caden Aoki, Huntington Beach Edison. Only a sophomore, Aoki has had a huge impact in the opening month, going 3-0 with one save and a 0.87 ERA.