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A season lost: Righetti's baseball team had high expectations heading into 2020
A season lost

A season lost: Righetti's baseball team had high expectations heading into 2020

The 2019 season was a magical one for the Righetti High baseball team. 

Despite facing some pretty heavy odds, the Warriors united against a vaunted San Luis Obispo team with three Division I players and rallied to win the Mountain League title. They then advanced to the CIF Central Section Division 1 semifinals. 

It was there that the Warriors' season ended, in a galvanizing 2-1 11-inning defeat. All of that success came under the guidance of Kyle Tognazzini, who was in his first season as the Warriors' head coach. 

Also leading the charge was standout Caleb Dulay, a diminutive right-hander with a fastball that topped out in the low-to-mid 80s. 

Dulay went 10-0 with a 0.55 ERA over 76 innings to help the Warriors go 22-6 overall. The ace earned the Times' All-Area MVP award and his skipper was named the All-Area Coach of the Year. 

"He knows who he is probably better than any player I've ever coached," Tognazzini said of Dulay after the 2019 season ended. "He's not going to go out there and try to be someone he's not. He's going to throw strikes, he's not going to overthrow pitches and he's going to command the zone. I knew that's what I had and he had confidence in it.

"More than anything he's got heart. He wants the ball in the biggest situations against the biggest guys, it doesn't matter who it is. That's what Caleb is. As the season came on, we were riding that momentum and it was pretty spectacular to watch."

The league title and semifinal berth, combined with an impressive set of returners, certainly built up some excitement heading into the 2020 season.

Dulay, a senior, was back to lead the Righetti rotation. So too were Jake Steels, Quigley Espinola, Logan Mortensen, Ryan Delgado, Andrew Gonzalez and Isaiah Navarro. They all comprised the Warriors' group of talented upperclassmen. 

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everything came to a screeching halt. 

The prep careers of Dulay and the group of Righetti seniors that played together for years ended in a flash, with no chance at more glory.

Righetti was 4-4 when the 2020 season suspended and eventually canceled. Would the Warriors be able to repeat as league champs? Could they play even deeper into the playoffs? Could this deep group of veteran players bring Righetti that elusive CIF title? 

Those questions will never find answers, the Righetti baseball season now just another piece of fallout added to the pile created from this pandemic. 

The Warriors were in the midst of a grueling schedule when the season ended. They played some of the top Valley schools, like Clovis and Clovis West, which resulted in two losses each by a run. Stockdale, another Central Section power, slipped past Righetti 8-5 in the fourth game of the season. The Warriors started the year with a pair of 10-0 wins, one vs. Nipomo and the other over Mission Prep.

Would Righetti build up steam, getting stronger as the season moved along? We'll never know. 

Instead a bunch of Warriors graduated after a lost season. 

Dulay ends his career with an 11-2 overall record and a 0.83 ERA over 92.1 innings. He allowed only 75 hits over that span, striking out 62 batters and walking just 17. He threw six complete games in his junior season.

Steels, a football and baseball standout, accumulated 65 hits with a .344 batting average in about two-plus varsity seasons. He scored 46 times in 58 varsity games and stole 28 bags. Steels hopes to walk on to the baseball team at Fresno State.

Ryan Delgado, who suffered an arm injury early in the 2020 season, will play at Cal Baptist. Delgado pitched in 25 games for the Warriors, throwing 99.2 innings with a 2.39 ERA and an 11-8 win-loss record. Delgado struck out 108 batters in his career.

Navarro hit .321 over 32 varsity games with 25 hits, 15 runs and 15 RBIs. He graduated earlier this month. 

Espinola should lead the Warriors in 2021. He's played in 31 games and is hitting .417 in his prep career with 35 hits in 84 at-bats. Espinola has scored 22 times with 18 RBIs. 

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Player of the Decade: We're looking for the top player of the last 10 seasons

The sports staff at the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News is looking for the top football player from Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County over the last 10 seasons of high school ball.

See who our nominees are thus far.


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