Ukiah High School’s Varsity baseball team has exceeded all expectations this season and for the second time in Wildcat Nation’s history will compete in the North Coast Sectional Championships squaring off against the Petaluma High School Trojans.
We sat down with Senior 2nd baseman Kaiden Berry and Senior Center Fielder Ethan Holbrook who told us the story of beginning the series as the underdogs and emerging to be a top contender for Saturday’s Championship game.
At the core of the team’s success, Berry and Holbrook said, is Coach Aaron Ford’s philosophy that a baseball team is a family. “We are not teammates. We are brothers.”
Berry said Wildcats strive to exemplify what they call “blue-collar baseball.” He described the team as cultivating grit and composure that projects both good sportsmanship and quiet confidence on the diamond.
On May 18th, Ukiah High faced Vintage High in the first round of the NCS Championship series. The Wildcats would beat the Crushers on their home turf 1-0.
Then on May 21st, the Wildcats took on the Wildcats. Ukiah High would beat Marin Catholic in the second round of the NCS Championships 1-0.
Yesterday on May 25th, the Wildcats overpowered Casa Grande’s Gaúchos beating them 5-4, leading them to this Saturday’s final round of the NCS Championships.
The brothers of Ukiah High baseball have come “together as a team playing to the best of our abilities. At this point, we’re unbeatable,” Berry told us.
With a total of sixteen teams in the North Coast Sectionals, nine would go on to the Championship Series. Out of those nine, Holbrook said Ukiah High was ranked last place. As Wildcats pulled off upset after upset, Ukiah High emerged as the dark horse of the NCS Championship Series.
Holbrook and Berry said Coach Ford’s work with the team is “day in and day out, six to seven days a week.” Coach Ford is always pushing varsity baseball to be better and in a bigger way, “is preparing us for life.”
One of the skills Coach Ford cultivates with the team, Berry told us, is to be “comfortable with the uncomfortable.” This has built a culture of resilience and calmness even in the midst of a championship series.
Coach Ford gave us insight into the players and strategies that have led to Ukiah High’s success. He said, “our main success has been our nine guys on defense, holding it down.”
Both the first and second rounds were low-scoring, which is evidence of Ukiah High’s indomitable defense.
Ethan Holbrook told us Coach Ford teaches players the 9 vs.1 strategy of defense. “Instead of thinking about it as a pitcher vs. a batter, think of it as nine players, infield and outfield, working together versus the one batter.”
Coach Ford praised Ukiah High pitchers Luke Schatt, Austin Ford, and Caleb Ford who have been “pitching amazingly” throughout the NCS series.
Ethan Holbrook has been the Wildcat “stepping up and getting those runs,” Coach Ford said. These performances have allowed Ukiah High Varsity baseball to gain the confidence of champions.
The Ukiah High Wildcats will face the Petaluma High Trojans for the North Coast Sectionals Championship on Saturday, May 28, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. on the Trojans Field at 201 Fair Street in Petaluma.
Regardless of the outcome, Coach Ford said, “every single one of those kids has stepped up into their role with confidence and maturity ready to take on anything in their way. The whole team has just blossomed and risen to the challenge together.”