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Blue Devil senior Josh Catacutan hits an RBI double down the left-field line to the wall in the bottom of the third inning at Sutter Health Field. Lev Farris Goldenberg/Enterprise photo

Sports

Avoiding the bug gives Catacutan the bug to play again

Baseball did not always come easy for Josh Catacutan.

When the Blue Devil outfielder played travel ball at 13, stepping into the batter’s box made him nauseous.

“I wanted to play, I just couldn’t … (it was) like a mental block,” Catacutan said. “I never envisioned that I’d be here now, playing at a high level.”

365体育投注And yet, here he is, poised to captain the Davis High lineup in his senior season. Catacutan is now the one making opposing pitchers queasy when he steps in the box.

365体育投注At least, that was the plan before Davis schools officials canceled classes and all Blue Devil athletics suspended until at least April 12 due to the threat of COVID-19.

365体育投注In a statement, DJUSD announced that “all events, extracurricular activities, athletics practices and competitions, and performances are canceled during the closure.”

“I was pretty disappointed when I found out the season would be suspended,” Catacutan told The Enterprise. “I felt like I was pretty locked in to have a good year.”

365体育投注After a shift from right field to center, the 5-foot-9 Catacutan was hoping to improve on his .293/.449/.336 slashline from last season.

365体育投注Now, the sweet-swinging lefty — and the rest of the Blue Devils — just hope their season can resume in four weeks.

“The plan for the next month is to keep my strength and skills up anyway that I can,” Catacutan said.

365体育投注As of now, all Davis athletes are under instructions to maintain “no contact.” That means no games and no practices.

“This means that each guy has to take it upon themselves to stay sharp over this month,” Catacutan said.

For the Devils, the hiatus comes just as their season takes off. For seniors, it hits especially hard.

After his junior year, in which he led the team with 35 runs scored, 24 walks (with just nine strikeouts) and finished second with 27 hits, Catacutan sharpened his already fearsome skill set during the offseason.

365体育投注Power was the only aspect lacking from Catacutan’s multi-pronged approach (he had just four extra base-hits). But he spent the offseason in the gym packing on muscle and shaved off 15 apparently needless pounds.

“He’s definitely the engine of our team,” said first-year head coach Ethan Guevin. “Just a really complete hitter, a really tough out … and he’s starting to realize some of his power potential.”

What makes Catacutan so stomach-roiling for pitchers and so satisfying for Devil fans is his elite plate approach.

One benefit of his slight stature is a smaller zone. something Catacutan takes advantage of by rarely chasing bad pitches. He waits, and as Guevin says, “when he’s sitting on a pitch he generally doesn’t miss it.”

365体育投注Yep, the Blue Devils have a leadoff guy who gets on base at almost a 50-percent clip, and now could add pop to his résumé.

Oh, and one more thing …

365体育投注After posting a 3.39 ERA in 10-plus innings last year, Catacutan will slot behind Luke Carrell in the pitching rotation, if and when games resume.

365体育投注“He’s a guy who can just go out on the mound, throw strikes, change speeds and give us a really good chance to win every time he throws,” Guevin told The Enterprise.

365体育投注Catacutan’s dad, Jessie, is the executive assistant dean in the college of engineering at UC Davis, and his mom, Kim, is a social media investigator and product manager.

Jessie was a multisport athlete in high school, and plays the role of unofficial videographer for DHS baseball, recording practically every pitch of every game.

365体育投注In Davis’ scrimmage against Granite Bay two weeks ago, he captured what Josh called “one of the best plays of my life.”

A Grizzlies player had blasted a shot over Catacutan’s head, and the senior turned to chase it down. But instead of turning over his shoulder to make the catch, he caught it basket-style, à la Willie Mays circa 1954, and crashed into the center field wall.

Players running into walls for Davis High baseball has been a theme in the past, and Catacutan is just the latest to exemplify that Blue Devil spirit.

365体育投注“I’m excited to see how he does and whether he can rise to the occasion this spring when we have a lot of younger guys who are looking up to him and see if he can kind of carry the team,” Guevin added.

365体育投注Assuming the season picks back up, some of those younger guys will be flanking Catacutan in the outfield this season.

Varsity newcomers Dante Romero, Griffin Szymoniak, Jordan Painter and Brian Caringal will share time in the corners and in center when Catacutan is on the mound.

365体育投注“(Brian) always had good speed, and his offense had come a long way, too, so we’ll look to him to (be an) additional offensive threat at the top of our lineup,” Guevin said of the senior Caringal. “He’s a strong, motivated kid, so he’s done a really good job.”

365体育投注The skipper calls Romero “our Swiss Army Knife,” a guy who can play every position on the field. Szymoniak — dealing with injury at the moment — will be a key piece, as will Painter, who Guevin says has “shown flashes.”

365体育投注Is there a learning curve with a new coach and a slew of new varsity contributors?

365体育投注“Definitely,” Catacutan said. “We went from kind of an old-school system, to kind of a new-school system, where you see all this gear we have. We got a bunch of new high-tech, modern stuff, compared to (what we had with retired coach Dan Ariola). Nothing wrong with it, it’s just different. But I think guys have adjusted pretty well.”

Now faced with uncertainty about the fate of their season, the Blue Devils must adjust once again.

Notes: Catacutan is the sole remaining player from 2018’s Section runner-up squad, which lost to Vacaville in heart-breaking fashion. … Catacutan recently received an offer to suit up for Cosumnes River College, where former DHS ballplayers Adrian Sanchez, Jack Painter and Jack Henry Grote currently play. … His younger sister Emma plays for DHS softball.

— Reach Lev Farris Goldenberg at [email protected]

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