Saturday, March 16, 2013

LoForte Hopes To Lead Franklin Back To Playoffs

It was only six years ago when as a 10-year-old, Hank LoForte and his Laguna Youth Baseball All-Star teammates were sitting atop the world. They had won the Cal Ripken World Series. They were the best group of 10-year-old baseball players in the country that summer.

Now sophomores in high school, they are all still pretty darn good baseball players.

Franklin SS Hank LoForte (photo by Christi Chavez)
“It’s crazy all the guys are on varsity all around here,” LoForte said of is former Laguna Youth baseball teammates. “It’s real nice to be able to play them at times.” 

LoForte is the lead-off batter and starting shortstop at Franklin High School. Nick Madrigal has the same role at Elk Grove. Madrigal’s twin brother, Ty, is a starting pitcher and occasional rightfielder for the Herd.

Carlos Moseley bats second in the Elk Grove lineup this spring and plays second base most of the time. Brooks Day and Matt Kelly are on the Herd JV team.

Jack Walsh is a starter at Laguna Creek. Colton Wakeman starts for Christian Brothers. Alex Smith is at Cosumnes Oaks.

Their ace pitcher on that 10-year-old squad, Johnny Burke, is the only one not playing baseball. He’s turned to golf and is on the team at Jesuit.

When LoForte came to high school head coach Bryan Kilby right away penciled him into the starting lineup at second base. An injury to a teammate forced him to move over to shortstop, but that didn’t stop LoForte from doing quite well in his freshman season.

He batted .283, struck out only six times and drew 25 bases-on-balls. He stole 17 bags in 20 attempts. In the field he was solid.

With plenty of speed and a nifty bat, LoForte also added a push drag bunt to his repertoire and used that a few times to get on base.

“I’m sort of a short-game kind of guy,” he said. “I like to mix things up in the infield.”

His spark at the top of the lineup, though just a freshman, put the Wildcats into the post-season as the third-seed from the Delta Valley Conference. Once in the post-season, Franklin caught fire, eliminated higher seeded teams such as Delta River League champion Pleasant Grove and DVC titlist Elk Grove.

The Wildcats took the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division I North championship for the first time in school history. Though they lost to St. Mary’s in the Section title series, Franklin made quite an impression.

“It was great,” LoForte recalled. “We started off the season kind of like we are right now. Pitching came along and the bats started on fire and then we just took off.”

Now a year later, Franklin is off to a slow start. They are 2-3 after a 5-2 loss to Oak Ridge at home last Friday. Defense was an issue for the Wildcats because they committed five errors leading to four unearned runs.

LoForte isn’t that worried about his team’s beginning to 2013.

“We’ll work on, (Friday) was just a bad game,” he said. “Our defense is solid.”

He is off to a pretty fast start this year. LoForte is hitting .357 through the first five games and he has four stolen bases already.

“But, I’m struggling at the plate right now,” he claimed. “I’ve got to get my hands going through. But, defense is going good right now.”

Around him are other sophomores such as starting centerfielder Peyton Simmons and second baseman Damian Chavez.  Jordan Estes got a start at third base Friday because of an injury to senior Ryan Sarginson.

One concern, too, for the Wildcats may be with their pitchers. Senior Tyler Blake who was counted on to be Franklin’s top hurler has had some issues with his shoulder this spring and he may not pitch at all the rest of the season.

Cameron Adams suffered the loss Friday but he has a 0.66 ERA in his first two starts. The football team’s quarterback, Trent Spallas, will see plenty of innings on the mound this year along with Simmons and junior Cameron Keup.

One face in the crowd at all the Wildcat games is LoForte’s father, Brian, the athletic director at Laguna Creek High School. The elder LoForte was the varsity baseball coach several years ago at McClatchy and then moved over to coach Laguna. He resigned a few years ago specifically to coach Hank’s baseball team.

Now, the elder LoForte scores the Wildcat games using an app on his Smartphone.

The family lives just a few blocks from Franklin, so Hank walks to school rather than ride with dad to Laguna Creek. Both of them are just fine with being a star baseball player for the Wildcats.

“I like Franklin and he likes Franklin, too,” Hank said. “He likes the coaches at Franklin.”

Hank also likes being coached by Kilby, Mike Cody, John Callahan and the others on the Franklin staff. It’s different than having dad as the coach.

“Having your dad out here (on the high school level) is a little weird,” he added. “He still helps me out a lot.”

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