The DVC baseball team (3-5), which has been dodging rainstorms in nonconference play, boasts two returning .300 hitters in outfielder Zachary Guardino (California High) and catcher Drew Downing (Northgate).
Guardino had a team-high 39 hits last season, batting .300 and earning second-team all-Big 8 honors. Downing hit .306 in 2016 and was No. 2 on the team in RBI with 16.
Overall, the Vikings will have to work hard and keep improving on the mound to earn victories in the power-packed Big 8.
No stranger to tough competition, the speedy Guardino honed his baseball and football skills in the powerful East Bay Athletic League.
“It’s a tough league just like the Big 8,” Guardino said of the EBAL. “You see guys go everywhere. It was a big challenge, honestly. I didn’t do that well my senior year because I came from an injury in football. It was hard to get back into it because the level was so high.”
Guardino probably won't be seeing a more passionate coach than he did in Grizzlies football coach Eric Billeci, a De La Salle graduate who believes strongly in the brotherhood approach.
“Oh, that guy’s a nut,” Billeci said with a laugh. “He’s a great guy, though. He taught me hard work. He taught me how to be successful in life. He taught me a lot … He teaches you to ‘play for the guy next to you,’ things like that.”
Even though the Big 8 is a baseball beast, the good news for solid hitters like Guardino is if they can produce, the scouts will take note. Hitting has kind of come naturally for Guardino, who was first handed a bat when he was a little kid by his dad, Richard, a former Cupertino High and San Jose State player.
Father and son have a close relationship.
“He puts a lot of pressure kind of to do well, but he’s always there every game I play,” said Guardino, whose goal is to play four-year college ball and keep progressing. “He’s always with me. He’s always been there.”
Through eight games this season, freshman catcher/DH Jared Bannister leads the Vikings in batting average at .368. Freshman infielder Jordan Williams, who got off to a hot start, is hitting .333. Sophomore infielders Frank Panacci (.300) and A.J. Welsh (.304) are also hitting well.
The Vikings are preparing for their Big 8 opener Feb. 28 at San Joaquin Delta.
-- Matt Schwab