The transition from one Thomson to the next was better than hoped.
Travis Thomson, in his first year as Sierra head coach, guided the Timberwolves to a 21-4-1 record and Valley Oak League championship — the program’s first since 2015 and sixth overall. His dad, Jack, had been the school’s first and only head coach until he retired last year as the all-time second winningest coach in the Sac-Joaquin Section with 607 career victories.
Sierra dusted the VOL competition, finishing the regular season with a four-game lead over second-place Central Catholic. The dominance was reflected in all-league voting, as the Timberwolves came up with three of the four major individual awards.
The top honor went to junior shortstop Jesse Ortiz-Martinez, the MVP. Senior southpaw Jason Silva earned Pitcher of the Year, while junior center fielder Matt Dunham was tabbed Defensive Player of the Year. Four-year starter Alex Gouveia of fourth-place Manteca (6-6 VOL, 16-11 overall) is Offensive Player of the Year.
“It was a good year for us,” Travis Thomson said. He was named VOL Coach of the Year. “As coaches we were sure happy leaving that meeting and, I think, rightfully so. Those players earned what they got. They had outstanding years.”
Ortiz-Martinez batted .364 with a team-highs in extra-base hits (nine), hits (28) and runs (20). His 15 RBIs were second on the team. Defensively, he helped turn 11 double plays and had a .895 fielding percentage.
“He was pitched to a lot differently than last year when he started making a name for himself,” Thomson said. “This year he battled through some tough pitching and was truly a leader of our team offensively and defensively.
“He was our spark, whether it was to start a rally or end a rally. He’s a big-time hitter and was the catalyst for our team.”
Mainly a reliever last season, Silva broke through as a senior and was the ace of the staff. In six league games, he compiled a 5-0 record with one no decision. Overall, he was 8-1 with a 1.39 ERA and 79 strikeout sin 55 1/3 innings.
“Jason had an amazing transformation in the offseason both physically and mentally,” Thomson said. “He gave us exactly what we needed to win each game that he pitched.”
Having Dunham cover center field helped. He ended the season with 41 putouts, two outfield assists and three errors. He also batted leadoff, hitting for a .333 average.
“What he does well is make the tough plays look easy,” Thomson aid. “That’s what makes him stand out.”
Gouveia wrapped up a standout career at Manteca, where he started at shortstop all four years. He’s a two-time All-VOL first-team selection and was picked for the second team as a freshman. For the season, he batted .438 with 42 hits, 24 runs, 24 RBIs, 11 steals, 11 doubles, two triples and a homer.
“The best player in the VOL, but an even better young man,” Manteca coach Neil MacDannald said. “He’s going to be missed.”
Gouveia’s career numbers rank among the best in the school, according to MacDannald: 114 games played (first), 142 hits (first), 88 runs (second), 25 steals (third), 29 doubles (second) and 75 RBIs (second).
Weston Ranch (2-10, 10-16) had two players make the all-league first team: fourth-year catcher Carlos Drain (.430, 14 RBIs) and outfielder Austin Cappas (.435, 17 RBIs, 28 runs, 10 doubles, five triples, two homers).
Fernando Segura (3-4, 2.20, 31 Ks) of East Union (2-10, 10-15) got a first-team nod as a pitcher. Sierra third baseman Louis Aquila (.381, 17 RBIs) and Manteca pitcher/infielder Dylan Gross (2-2, 4.20; .373, 15 RBIs) are also first-team selections.
Sierra also had four second-team selections in pitcher Slyder Blyth (7-0, 2.10), catcher Julian Cantu (3.82), second baseman Tyler Kiser (2.39, .946 fielding) and corner outfielder Deshon Thomas (.344, 1.000 fielding). Manteca pitcher Ryan Ward (4-3, 2.72, 74 Ks) and Weston Ranch infielder Amier Bowen (.447, 26 RBIs) round out local second-team honorees.
Earning honorable mention: Weston Ranch’s Anthony Aguilar, Isaiah Maxie, Anthony Faulk and Carlos Souza; Manteca’s Christian Tonnna, Austin Kovacs and Rafael Diaz; and Sierra’s Jacob Frisk.