High school baseball standouts make college commitments to play at the next level

Eastlake High School senior Zach Armstrong has committed to continue his baseball career at Webster University. Photo by Phillip Brents

While the 2020 spring season did not provide an appropriate showcase because of the cancellation of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic, several local high school seniors are looking forward to proving themselves at the next level after recently making college commitments.

Eastlake High School has logged five college commitments among its senior class: pitchers Zach Armstrong (Webster University), Josh Smith (Concordia Nebraska) and Dante Schmid (San Jose State University), infielder Kai Saterstrom (San Diego State University) and outfielder Holden Stephens (Arizona Christian).

Schmid may be the most well-known player among the group after helping lead Sweetwater Valley Little League’s 12U all-star team to a third-place finish at the 2015 Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

Schmid, a power hitter and power pitcher with Sweetwater Valley, was 2-0 in six game appearance this spring with the Titans with a 2.10 earned-run average after posting a 3-1 record with a 0.00 ERA in eight games last season.

Former Little League World Series participant Dante Schmid doffs his cap during introductions for last year’s San Diego Section Open Division championship game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Schmid, who was a member of last year’s San Diego Section Open Division championship Eastlake squad, made the announcement last Wednesday afternoon (May 6).

“I am very blessed to announce that I have committed to further my education and play Division I baseball at San Jose State University,” Schmid said. “I would like to thank my parents, my family, coaches, my trainer and my friends for their unconditional support and guidance.”

“Dante was our starter — he’ll get bigger and better at the collegiate level,” Eastlake head coach Dave Gallegos said. “He’s really a big-time competitor. He wants the ball in any situation.”

Armstrong had appeared in five games this season, logging six innings without allowing a run, after appearing in eight games with a 1-0 record and 0.00 earned-run average during the Titans’ CIF championship run last year.

Smith made five appearances for Eastlake in 2019 with a 1-0 record and 0.00 ERA.

“Zach was our closer while Josh was our middle reliever,” Gallegos said. “They’ll be ready, mentally prepared for the competition with the work ethic we’ve developed here.”

Eastlake High School senior Josh Smith will continue his baseball career at Concordia Nebraska. Photo by Phillip Brents

Saterstrom played three years of varsity baseball at High Tech High Chula Vista before transferring to Eastlake this spring.

He posted some remarkable numbers while at HTH-Chula Vista, including a .318 hitting average with six doubles and 11 RBI as a freshman, a .587 hitting average with seven doubles, seven triples, six home runs and 34 RBI as a sophomore and a .508 hitting average with 16 doubles, three home runs and 37 RBI as a junior.

The Bruins finished 18-6 last year, 6-0 in Summit League play, en route to receiving the No. 3 seed in the Division V playoffs.

HTH-Chula Vista extended its playoff run to five games, including three games against eventual division runner-up Mount Miguel (with one win and two losses).

The Bruins received the No. 6 seed in the Division V playoffs in 2017 and advanced through five rounds, meeting second-seeded Escondido Charter in three games (with one win and two losses).

Saterstrom posted a .231 hitting average with two runs scored and two RBI in six games this spring with Eastlake.

“Kai has a lot of upsize,” Gallegos said. “I think he’s only going to get better. From what I saw in the short time he was with us, I think he’ll do well at the next level.”

Bonita Vista High School senior and former Little League and PONY-13 World Series participant Nate Nankil will play college baseball at Cal State Fullerton. Photo by Phillip Brents

Around the horn
Bonita Vista outfielder Nate Nankil, a member of the 2015 Sweetwater Valley Little League World Series 12U all-star team who hit .304 in seven games this spring for the Barons with two doubles and four RBI while recording a 1-0 pitching record, 0.00 ERA and six strikeouts in three innings, will continue his baseball career at Cal State Fullerton

“Nathan is a tremendous baseball player — an elite level player who can do it all on the field,” Fullerton assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Sergio Brown said. “He’s not only one of the best outfielders in California but one of the top outfielders in the country. He can really run, possesses a great arm, hits for average and has gap power. We’re excited to see him running down balls in the gaps at Goodwin Field. He can do a lot of things on a baseball field that can help our team win games.”

Nate Nankil represented Bonita Vista at last year’s San Diego Section All-Star Game at Petco Park. Photos by Phillip Brents
From left, Helix’s Jordan Thompson, Torrey Pines’ Kevin Sims, Bonita Vista’s Nate Nankil and Eastlake’s Marcelo Mayer strike a pose together after last year’s San Diego Section All-Star Game at Petco Park.

Nankil (6-3, 190) hit .324 last year with 21 runs scored, nine doubles and 17 RBI while fashioning a 0.97 ERA in 11 pitching appearances with 21 strikeouts in 29 innings as the Barons battled through five playoff games to reach the semifinals, dropping two of three games to eventual Division II champion Sage Creek.

He participated in last June’s San Diego Section Baseball All-Star Game.

Nankil enjoyed a breakout sophomore season with a .370 hitting average, seven doubles, three home runs and 21 RBI.

Nankil is the 40th ranked player in California, according to the Perfect Game scouting service and the No. 9 ranked outfielder in California.

Chula Vistan Angelo Peraza, a multi-sport athlete at St. Augustine High School, has committed to play baseball at the University of San Diego.

Peraza, who led the Saints to the 2018 San Diego Section Open Division football championship as the team’s quarterback, played four varsity seasons for the school’s baseball team.

He hit .311 as a sophomore with 31 runs scored and six RBI and came back to hit. 317 as a junior with 15 runs scored and nine RBI. He was batting .444 with three doubles, one home run and three RBI in six games this spring before the season was put on hold.

He passed for 3,458 yards and 36 touchdowns with 19 interceptions over four varsity football seasons.

Mater Dei Catholic catcher Ildefonso Ruiz, whose Baseball Factory profile includes a 96 mph exit velocity as a hitter and 87 mph throwing velocity, has committed to attend SDSU.

Calvary Christian Academy senior Mark Cervantes, a member of the Sweetwater Valley Little League 12U all-star team that advanced to the 2015 Little League World Series, has made a verbal commitment to play college baseball at the University of La Verne at the Division III NCAA level.

Cervantes, a pitcher/first baseman, led the Royal Knights with a .600 hitting average through two games in the shortened spring season with one double, one triple and four RBI.

He topped the team with a .458 hitting average last year with six doubles, six home runs, 26 RBI and 33 runs scored as CCA finished 19-5, 8-0 in Citrus League play, and advanced through five rounds of the Division V playoffs, losing to eventual division champion Morse in the semifinals.

Cervantes, who also plays basketball and football, finished second on the team with a .588 hitting average his sophomore year with nine doubles, four home runs, 26 RBI and 29 runs scored as the Royal Knights finished 16-5, 5-1 in league play.

As a pitcher, Cervantes has a career 8-2 record with a 2.06 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 51 innings.

Eastlake High School junior has committed to continue his baseball career at Long Beach State. Photo by Phillip Brents

Next up
Several juniors have also made college commitments, including Eastlake shortstop Marcelo Mayer (University of Southern California), Eastlake pitcher/infielder Ray Cebulski (Long Beach State) and Bonita Vista shortstop Daniel McElveny (University of San Diego).

Cebulski was enjoying a solid start to the spring season with a .364 hitting average and a 1.26 earned-run average with 11 strikeouts in 16.2 innings.

He posted a 7-0 record with a 1.11 ERA during the Titans’ CIF championship season in 2019.

Mayer, who participated in last year’s CIF all-star game with Nankil, was hitting .294 with three home runs and six RBI this spring after posting a .261 hitting average as a sophomore with a 2-1 pitching record and 2.00 ERA in five appearances.

Gallegos remains high on Mayer’s future in the game.

“I think he can be a first-rounder (in the MLB draft), that’s how good he is,” the EHS coach said.

He’s already hit the radar screens as a California Region All-High School Underclass First Team selection by Perfect Game.

“With more than 450,000 high school baseball players in the nation, the Rawlings-Perfect Game Preseason Underclass All-American players represent the very best in their class,” said Mike Thompson, who serves as chief marketing officer for St. Louis-based Rawlings.

McElveny was hitting .250 with two RBI in seven games this spring after hitting .205 with four RBI last season.

A pair of former Eastlake Little League standouts —Isaiah Lane and Nico Libed — are generating much interest despite begin only freshmen.

Libed, a catcher/utilityman, has already committed to attend the University of San Diego.

“He has a strong arm as a freshman, some good power,” the EHS coach said. “He’s a very upsize player.”

Lane is being heavily recruited for his potential.

“He’ll be a good one,” Gallegos said. “He’s a stud. He’s very good defensively and very knowledgeable as a freshman. He can hit.”

Eastlake senior Ethan Cashetta, who has yet to finish his recruiting trips, is currently mulling college offers.

Titan senior catcher Nick Maldonado, yet another member of the 2015 Sweetwater Valley team, is also expected to sign a college commitment.

Stay tuned.


Hilltop High School alumni who have gone on to the next level to play professionally.

San Diego Section/South County Alumni Tracker

Current through May 11, 2020

Professional Baseball

Keoni Cavaco (Eastlake, 2019): Drafted by Minnesota Twins (first round, 2019), last played with GCL Twins in 2019 Gulf Coast League (rookie level)

Julian Escobedo (Eastlake, 2016): Drafted by Cleveland Indians (17th round, 2019), last played with Mahoney Valley in 2019 New York-Penn League (A level)

Daniel Schneeman (Bonita Vista, 2015): Drafted by the Cleveland Indians (33rd round, 2018), last played with Lake County Captains in 2019 Midwest League (A level)

Dean Nevarez (Eastlake, 2015): Drafted by Seattle Mariners (19th round, 2018), last played with Everett in 2019 Northwest League (A level)


Collegiate Baseball

Jalen Fejeran (Eastlake, 2019): UC-San Diego

Emilio Luna (Castle Park, 2019): CSU San Marcos

Randy Abshier (Otay Ranch, 2018): University of Arizona

Grant Holman (Eastlake, 2018): Cal-Berkeley

Brian Leonhardt (Eastlake, 2018): San Diego State University

Micah Pietila-Wiggs (Eastlake, 2018): University of New Mexico, Santa Ana College

Zaine Mendoza (Eastlake, 2018): CSU-San Bernardino

Alex Verdugo (Bonita Vista, 2017): Long Beach State, Grossmont College, University of Nevada-Las Vegas

Leonard (L.J.) Jones (Eastlake, 2017): Long Beach State

Ben Ramirez (Eastlake, 2017): University of Southern California

Bryan Reyes (Eastlake, 2017): Lewis-Clark State College, San Diego City College, Southwestern College, Vanguard University

Sonny Rivera (Eastlake, 2017): Long Beach State

Juan Sanchez (Eastlake, 2017): Delaware State University

Casey Schmitt (Eastlake, 2017): San Diego State University

Greg (Tre) Brown (Eastlake, 2016): San Diego State University

Jack Sandberg (Eastlake, 2015): University of San Diego

Jason Peabody (Eastlake, 2015): Wayne State College

Tucker Torano (Eastlake, 2015): Wayne State College

Isaac Vargas (Eastlake, 2015): Wayne State College

Michael Wade (Eastlake, 2015): Marymount University