Prep Baseball Report

2018 Season Preview: Vacaville Bulldogs

Blaine Clemmens
Northern California Director of Scouting

As the 2018 high school baseball regular season in California draws ever so close, we’ve begun rolling out team previews from around the state.

In this edition we go to the Sac-Joaquin Section (SJS) to check in last year’s top seed in the Division 1 North part of the section, the Vacaville Bulldogs, led by fourth year head coach Stu Clary.  The Bulldogs fell in the first round of those 2017 section playoffs, providing plenty of motivation to focus and get back for another shot in 2018.  Do they have enough?  Let’s take a look.  

Team: Vacaville HS  

Nickname: Bulldogs

Section: Sac-Joaquin (SJS), Div. 1

League: Monticello Empire League (MEL)

Head Coach: Stu Clary

Years as Head Coach at VHS: 4

Team Twitter: @vacahibaseball

2017 Overall Record: 24-4

2017 League Finish: 14-1 (1st)

2017 Postseason Finish: Lost 1st round

Team Website: Vacaville Bulldogs

Number of Returning Starters: 5

Number of Returning Pitchers: 4

Top Returning Players:

Bryce Begell: SR/SS – 6-1 185, R/R, speed/power combo, 3rd varsity season, Arizona signee

Cole Elvis: SR/C – 6-2 185, R/R, versatile/athletic catcher, was P/INF last season, 3rd varsity season, Cal signee

T.J. Smith: SR/RHP – 6-3 180, 8-0 1.17 in 2017, has D2 offer & some D1 interest, Uncommitted

Carson Hawkins: JR/RHP – 6-5 200, 4-0 2.36 in 2017, Uncommitted

Other Players To Watch:

Michael Brown: SO/1B – 6-4 220, L/L, Area Code Underclass ‘17, physical hitter, 4.0 GPA, Uncommitted

Hunter Durrough: JR/INF – 6-0 160, R/R, could challenge for SS position, dominant ’17 JV season, Sacramento State commit

Jared Breedwell: SO/OF – 5-10 150, R/R, athletic outfielder with speed, Oregon State commit

Devereaux Harrison: JR/OF-RHP – 6-0 160, R/R, versatility and athleticism, mid-80s fastball

Season Outlook:

If there is a team with a burning desire to get the 2018 season underway, the Vacaville Bulldogs would qualify as that team. Coming off a great 2017 season that saw them finish 24-4 (14-1 in conference play) and earn the top seed in their section, they lost in the first round of the playoffs, a bitter end to a season that held the promise of much more. 

Not only do the Bulldogs have to shake off the 2017 season, they have to replace A LOT of talent.  Four of their players have moved onto D1 programs and another is competing at a local junior college, so a ton of talent and experience walked out the door.  However, the good news is that two of the current seniors signed with D1 programs and two of the underclassmen have already verballed to D1 programs, while at least one more has the opportunity to do so when he chooses to do so (Michael Brown).  If/when senior right-hander T.J. Smith decides his future, there could be three seniors moving onto 4-year college programs.  So the cupboard isn’t exactly bare.

For most good teams (at any level of the game), being strong on the mound and defensively up the middle of the field is a key to success.  Coach Clary is covered in those areas, returning four pitchers who combined to make 39 appearances last season, chewing up 146.2 innings pitched.  In fact, they are only losing 46.1 innings from a year ago.  Smith will once again be expected to carry a heavy load (53.2 IP in ’17), and Hawkins will be expected to increase his workload.  Catcher Cole Elvis pitched 50.1 innings in 2017 (6-2, 2.50 ERA), but in moving behind the plate this season, he may not be as available in 2017.  However, with talented sophomore catcher Nick Strong on the team, Elvis might still be available to contribute on the mound. Junior right-hander Devereaux Harrison will also be looking to contribute.

Elvis moves behind the plate, replacing a senior who moved on to D1 baseball.  He was primarily a corner infielder (.315, 8 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR in ’17) and pitcher in 2017, so there could be a bit of a learning curve early in the season as he learns to handle his staff.  However, he is among the most talented players, as is indicated by his signing with Cal (among many suitors).  He has a strong arm and is already showing catch-throw skills that rate quite well. 

Senior Bryce Begell will likely be the starting shortstop and he brings not only pop to the line-up, but basestealing ability as well (.366, 6 2B, 6 3B, HR, 13 SB in ’17).  His keystone combo partner looks to be junior Hunter Durrough, who might have designs on the shortstop position himself.  To have two D1 caliber middle infielders, both capable of playing shortstop, is certainly a luxury for the Bulldogs. 

At 1st base will be impressive sophomore Michael Brown.  Brown competed on the 2017 A’s Area Code Underclass team, one of only two 2020 grads on that team.  He is a left-handed hitting powerful young man, but also has a high level of athleticism, making him more than just a slugger.  Another of his 2020 classmates, Jared Breedwell, will be in an outfield spot, utilizing his speed to cover ground and provide his pitching staff with excellent defense.  Brown, Breedwell, and Strong comprise a talented group of sophomores who will be future cornerstones of the Bulldog program.

If all the talented young players and first year varsity competitors can jell in the early parts of the season, Vacaville should find itself again competing for a MEL title and a favorable seed in the SJS playoffs. With a strong recent culture of winning and a core each year of very talented players in all grad classes pushing each other, success is an expectation.  If they can do the little things to win games, Vacaville will be in the mix again.  The schedule is full of good competition to get the Bulldogs ready for the conference season, and hopefully beyond.

Early season games against Acalanes, Franklin (Elk Grove), Davis, Woodcreek, and Christian Brothers will be highlights on the schedule, as each of those teams has major D1 talent, and in some cases, MLB draft talent.  Mid/late March games versus Jesuit and Heritage are also high level match-ups. Vacaville figures to get its stiffest conference challenges from city rival Will C. Wood HS and from Vintage HS (Napa).  Their section is loaded with some of the region’s powerhouses (Davis, Elk Grove, etc.) so nothing will come easy this season.

With a roster loaded with talent in multiple grad classes and coming off a season that provides plenty of motivation, the 2018 Vacaville Bulldogs are one of Northern California’s teams to watch this spring.


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California high school coaches can request a 2019 preseason questionnaire from Northern California Director of Scouting Blaine Clemmens at [email protected] or California State Director of Scouting Les Lukach at [email protected]

Note: The completion of a questionnaire does not guarantee we will be able to get it posted before the start of the season.