Featuring one of the most talent-rich teams in recent San Diego County history, Cathedral Catholic High's baseball team has been dogged by high expectations and intense pressure all season long.
But the Dons never blinked.
They culminated a dominant season with yet another dominant performance, winning their second consecutive San Diego Section Div. III title, 13-2 over Montgomery at San Diego State University's Tony Gwynn Stadium in a rematch of last year's title game at the same venue.
The Dons beat Montgomery 5-3 in last season's title game with a younger and less experienced team.
But with eight seniors already signed to Div. I colleges, several others being actively recruited and a title already under their belt, the Dons went into the season knowing that fair or not, anything less than a repeat performance would be viewed as a disappointment.
Dons coach Gary Remiker, whose team was ranked among the top in county in nearly all preseason polls, said he was not aware of a program in recent history that graduated eight Div. I players.
"I think that coming together as a team and winning the championship the way they did definitely validated all of those expectations," Remiker said. "I was very proud of how they dealt with all the pressure."
The Dons responded to that pressure with their bats, leaving nothing to chance as they scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning on their way to the route.
That turned out to be all the support Dons starting pitcher Ryan Wilkins would need. The SDSU-bound senior pitched a six-hit complete game shutout, striking out seven batters and allowing no walks. Wilkins took a no-hitter into the fourth inning.
Wilkins, Tommy Cheek and Tyler Gaffney each had two hits to lead the Dons.
The Dons won for the 18th time in 21 games as they improved their overall record for the season to 26-6.
They went 4-0 in the double-elimination playoff tournament, outscoring their opponents by a combined 43-10.
Senior Casey Husband, who hit a game winning two-run homer in last year's title game, keyed the Dons first-inning rally with a two-run single.
The Dons extended their lead to 8-0 in the fourth inning, when a Montgomery infield error triggered a three-run inning.
Montgomery scored their only two runs in the top of the sixth, but any momentum they got was immediately squashed in the bottom half of the inning, when the Dons broke the game open with a five-run outburst.
Gaffney, the Dons' athletic two-sport star who is also a football standout, sparked the rally with a leadoff double.
Casey Munoz, a junior, singled in two runs later in the inning to seal the victory.
The Dons title game victory typified a season that saw few if any valleys.
The Dons opened the season by winning their first seven games, highlighted by winning the prestigious Hilltop Lolita's tournament in March.
The Dons batted .390 as a team with five everyday players batting over .400 (Wilkins, Cheek, Gaffney, Munoz and Matt Moynihan).
Their pitching was equally effective, posting a combined 3.59 ERA.
Wilkins, the Dons staff ace, was 8-1 with 2.23 ERA.
He struck out 99 batters while allowing just 14 walks. The Dons staff combined for 255 strikeouts while allowing 60 walks on the season.
Remiker said a key factor in his team's success was its ability to play as a team, with players learning to put the team's interest ahead of their own immediate self-interest.
He credited strong senior leadership for the internal policing that created a team-oriented environment.
"Everyone wants to have good stats, but still it's a team game and so to keep everyone focused on the bigger picture; on the team goals and not the individual goals, that was our biggest challenge," Remiker said.
"Anytime anybody seemed to get out of line or show any indication of selfishness, our seniors really policed it well," Remiker said. "That's the key to being able to keep our team together. They didn't get wrapped up in all the individual stuff."
Track and Field:
Torrey Pines had three runners place in the top 10 at the June 6 state championship meet at Buchanan High of Clovis.
Allie Billmeyer and Erin Gillingham placed fifth and sixth in the 1,600-meter and Megan Morgan placed eighth in the 3,200.
Our Lady of the Peace's Sammy Silva won the 1,600 in 4:47.67.
Billmeyer clocked a 4:51.03, and Gillingham a 4.52.39.
Morgan posted a 10:33.58 finish.