TURLOCK — Baseball season in the Stanislaus District ended Monday, but already there’s reason to start thinking about 2015.
When Pitman High School takes the field nine months from now, all eyes will be on catcher Coleton Horner, who hit .468 this season, the third highest average for Division I underclassmen in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
The junior catcher wrapped up his first varsity campaign when the Pride was eliminated from the postseason chase on the last day of the Central California Conference season. Pitman lost to league champion Turlock while Atwater beat a 3-12 Buhach Colony team on the final day.
But something else happened in that game. Horner hit safely in his 26th consecutive game – meaning he got a base hit in every game of the season.
“You can’t expect something like that to happen,” said Horner, who at a lithe 6-feet, 155 pounds, looks like he’d be more comfortable behind a chess board than squatting behind home plate. “You put in the hard work and things will work out in your favor.”
Like in a March 28 game against Atwater – game No. 13 of the streak.
Horner was hitless going into his final at bat against Austin Conour. With two strikes against him, the right-handed Horner got an inside fastball and put it over the first baseman’s head for a single.
The streak was saved and, somewhere, a Hall of Famer Harry Heilmann must’ve smiled.
Heilmann won four batting titles in the 1920s for Detroit, hitting a career-best .403 in 1923. A native of San Francisco, he claimed he became a great hitter only after he learned to hit an inside pitch to the opposite field with two strikes against him.
That should tell you a little something about Horner.
“He’s consistent,” said Pitman coach John Acha. “He didn’t chase much, he hits to all fields … he took what they gave him. It was pretty impressive what he did.”
According to Acha, Horner knows the game well and has a high baseball IQ, which is pretty much a requirement for catchers.
“We take pride in being a catcher here at Pitman,” Acha said. “We’ve had Zach Gurr, A.J. Derr and Steven Kha. And our pitching coach, Spencer Snodgrass, was a dominant catcher back in his day.”
Snodgrass, when he was pitching for the Pride, was catching for a kid named Colin Kaepernick. (Wonder what ever became of that guy?)
Next season, the CCC is changing its format to play three league games per week. That means Acha likely will need to find another spot for Horner – as a DH or elsewhere – to get him more rest. That’s the only concession Acha anticipates making as his star carries an active hitting streak into next season.
“You can’t say you won’t think about it, but we’ll see when we get there,” said Acha. “You can hit four balls on the screws and still go 0-for-4. But if Coleton stays within himself he should hit very well next year.
“I anticipate him being in the lineup every game.”
The longest hitting streak in state history, according to the Cal-Hi Sports record book, is 46 games by Joe Spiers of Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley) from 2002-2004. Horner will have plenty of time to contemplate that little tidbit.
“Yeah, I’ll think about it over the summer,” Horner said. “It’ll make me strive to get better.”
Horner’s first at-bat of the season is scheduled for Feb. 27, in a game likely to be played against Modesto High in Turlock.
Mark your calendar.