2018 Season Preview: Valley Christian Warriors

Blaine Clemmens
Northern California Director of Scouting

As the start of the 2018 high school baseball season in California draws closer, we’ve been rolling out team previews from around the state.

In this edition we go to the Central Coast Section (CCS) to check in on defending CCS Open Division Champion Valley Christian out of San Jose.  The Warriors are led by 29 year head coach John Diatte and bring back an incredible amount of talent and returners from a championship team.  This is a program with a lot of success and big time talent over the years, and the 2018 version is among the most talented in the history of the school.

Team: Valley Christian HS  

Nickname: Warriors

Section: Central Coast, Class A

League: West Catholic Athletic League (WCAL)

Head Coach: John Diatte

Coach Twitter: @CoachDiatte

Years as Head Coach at VCHS: 29

Team Twitter: @vc_baseball

2017 Overall Record: 22-11-1

2017 League Finish: 9-4-1 (1st)

2017 Postseason Finish: CCS Open Division Champion

Team Website: Valley Christian Warriors

Number of Returning Starters: 10

Number of Returning Pitchers: 7

Top Returning Players:

Patrick Wicklander: SR/LHP – long and lanky 6-foot-3 left-hander w/upper 80s stuff, Arkansas signee

Nico Marinconz: JR/SS – compactly built 5-foot-10 ballplayer w/high level hit/field tools, Cal Poly commit

Dawson Brigman: SR/INF – wiry strong 6-foot-1 infielder w/projectable tools, Santa Clara signee

Coleman Brigman: JR/OF – lean athletic 6-foot-0 outfielder w/significant hit tools, Santa Clara commit

William Kempner: JR/RHP – Burly 6-foot-0 right-hander w/upper 80s stuff, Gonzaga commit

Eddie Park: SO/OF-LHP – 6-foot-0 versatile player handles bat well and competitive on mound, Stanford commit

Other Players To Watch:

Ryan Belluomini: SR/C – 6-foot-1 catcher returns as starter, hit .344 in ‘17, Uncommitted

Jonathan Cymrot: FR/RHP-INF – Team USA national program participant, upper 80s, handles bat too, Uncommitted but fielding multiple offers

Steven Zobac: JR/UTL-C-P – Noticeable 6-foot-3 player w/strong arm, bat talent, and a chance to come on as a pitcher

Roman Connolly: JR/RHP – 6-foot-0 right-hander with mid-80s stuff that promises to rise, Uncommitted

Mark Fairweather: JR/OF-RHP – 5-foot-10 athlete w/ability to contribute all over the field, Uncommitted

Season Outlook:

Coming off a 2017 CCS Open Division title, one would think the 2018 Valley Christian Warriors might be looking at a slight rebuild, as defending champs often lose a lot of quality senior talent.  Well… this team is a little different.  Not only do the Warriors look like a favorite to defend that title, they could be among the top teams ever in the long history of outstanding Valley Christian teams. 

Among their top returning players, four of them are underclassmen and each of them has already committed to a D1 program.  Oh, they also return three seniors who have signed with D1 programs, while having a couple other seniors who very well could be playing D1 or D2 ball in the fall of 2018.  Their youngest player, a freshman, is among their most talented overall players.  Yes indeed, this team could have a special season.

Valley Christian plays in Northern California’s top conference, the WCAL, featuring heavyweight programs St. Francis, Bellarmine, Serra, and Archbishop Mitty.  In 2018, Sacred Heart Cathedral (SF) has a strong and complete team, making the WCAL a rough and tumble six team dogfight.  The best thing about following players in this conference is that if they're doing well as an individual, you can be assured they are competing against high level high school competition, in fact, most of the schools have multiple D1 players each year, in some cases, multiple D1 players in each grad class.

Pitching and defense often determines the WCAL and CCS champions and the Warriors look to be in good shape on the mound.  Patrick Wicklander returns off a junior campaign that saw him post a 1.92 ERA and 8-1 record in 80.1 IP, with 94 strikeouts.  Junior right-hander Will Kempner posted a 2.49 ERA in 19.2 IP, while sophomore left-hander Eddie Park chipped in 1ith 18.2 IP and a 0.75 ERA. 

Senior right-hander Nate Medrano will also be a mainstay in the rotation, as he was 4-2 with a 2.78 ERA in 45.1 IP (48 K) in 2017.  He is uncommitted at this time.  Freshman right-hander Cymrot will also be expected to contribute this season, as will Zobac and Connolly.  Competition for quality and meaningful innings will be fierce this season, which should bring out the best in each of these players.

Defensively/offensively the Warriors look to be strong all over the field, with senior Ryan Belluomini (.344, 4 2B, 19 RBI), junior shortstop Nico Marinconz (.414, 12 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 22 RBI, 8 SB), senior infielder Dawson Brigman, and junior outfielder Coleman Brigman (.337, 10 2B, 1 3B, 16 RBI) all returning. Sophomore outfielder Eddie Park also returns off a strong 2017 season (.337, 3 2B, 1 3B, 10 RBI, 8 SB). Juniors Zobac and Fairweather will figure into the mix and so will senior 1st baseman Brandon Nguyen.

As talented and experienced as this group is, there will be some bumps in the road this season as their schedule is loaded with great competition.  Coach Diatte  teams play with an edge and generally compete to their highest level, with intensity and focus.  That philosophy will have to serve them well, as there will be a lot of attention on the team, on individuals, and with the high expectations.

Early season games will feature solid competition from the San Jose area (Palo Alto, Leigh, Los Gatos). In early March the Warriors take on Elk Grove and Jesuit, two of the power programs in Northern California. They also have a highly intriguing non-conference game with Santa Cruz before they play in the loaded National Classic from April 2-5.  Then of course is the WCAL schedule, with two games vs each school.

The 2018 Valley Christian is a team with seven D1 commitments to date, a few more to come, while playing in one of the strongest conferences in California, scheduling tough non-conference teams and participating in an elite tournament.  Whether they again hoist a CCS championship trophy or they fall short, they will be one of the teams to watch in California all spring. 


CLICK HERE to create your FREE Prep Baseball Report Profile.

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.