San Lorenzo Valley High senior John Clinkenbeard will help lead the Cougars baseball team as they enter Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League action on March 15. (Paul Firenzi/Press Banner file photo)

San Lorenzo Valley High junior Jaden Shabry and the rest of the baseball team is beaming with confidence as they enter the 2024 Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League season starting this week.

The Cougars star shortstop and pitcher is batting a .368 (7-of-19) average with one double, four RBIs and four runs scored. Sharby also has 10 strikeouts in six innings pitched for the Cougars this season.

“This kid can play, he really can do a lot for this team. Whether he is on the mound or at short, he will make an impact for us,” said SLV coach Scott Scutcliff, who returns for his 24th year at the helm.

SLV currently owns a 2-3-1 overall record, including back-to-back wins over Live Oak and North Monterey County high schools on March 7 and 9, respectively.

Shabry said he already sees major improvement within the team this season.

“This year the players and the coaches have focused on bringing our small team together to create an environment of friends and family,” he said.

Prior to the season, Sharby and his teammates agreed on one goal: clinching a postseason berth.

“We may be a small roster but everyone that is a part of the process has a part to play if we want to make the postseason,” Sharby said.

Scutcliff mentioned that having a smaller roster brought the team closer.

“The team chemistry has been tight, we are a young team and our roster is smaller than others, the guys are playing for each other,” he said.

In 2023, Shabry batted a .286 (12-of-42) average with one double for the Cougars. He pitched just 4.1 innings and recorded three strikeouts, but now he’s ready to take command of the mound this year.

Other returners expected to make an impact for the Cougars are senior John Clinkenbeard and junior Benji Stretch.

In 2023, Clinkenbeard batted a .333 average and led the Cougars with 20 hits, including nine doubles, one triple and one home run. He is batting a .333 (4-of-12) average with three runs scored and one RBI to start the young 2024 season.

Stretch is one of the top returning hitters for the Cougars. He batted a .250 (13-of-52) average in 2023.

The Cougars placed sixth in the SCCAL standings with a 2-13 record in league play. They finished with a 6-16 overall record.

Scutcliff said he hopes to see his players improve and compete in what will be another challenging league season in the SCCAL.

“We are younger, so we are just looking to compete this year and make progress. We got a really talented league this season” he said.

SLV will take on familiar foes such as Scotts Valley, Harbor, Soquel, Santa Cruz and defending league champion Aptos.

As of now, the rainy weather has been the Debbie Downer for most spring sports programs. Scutcliff said they had a solid turnout this year and beside the rain, they’re excited to get going.

The Cougars had an indoor facility built for them to have a place to practice in rainy weather, but Scutcliff cited that nothing beats getting on the field.

The Cougars are scheduled to begin SCCAL play at Soquel on March 15 at 4:30pm.

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