California Dreamin’

Kodiak’s Dylan Kavanaugh tags teammate Austin Frick during a base running drill at Wednesday’s practice at Baranof Field. (Derek Clarkston photo)

Kodiak’s baseball team is California Dreamin’.

That’s because on Saturday, the Bears are flying to the Golden State to compete in the San Diego Lions Club Invitational Baseball Tournament to begin their season.

The tournament, the largest and oldest high school baseball tournament in the country, begins Monday. The tournament fields 134 teams spread out in eight divisions.

Kodiak is guaranteed three games and could play a maximum of five games if it wins its bracket in the 2A division.

Kodiak coach Rick Langfitt said his team is prepared to begin the 2011 season two weeks before its first game in Alaska.

“I think it has really helped them to focus,” he said. “We have had the best six weeks of practice that we ever had. They are very excited. We are all excited.

“We have been out a little bit so far and it is cold. It will be a lot nicer playing in 60-, 70-degree weather.”

This is the first time since Kodiak traveled to Florida in 2006 that the Bears have traveled out of Alaska. Langfitt said since the team has seven seniors it was an easier decision to travel to begin the season.

“We have a fairly experienced, mature team and we have just enough pitching depth to make it work,” he said.

Kodiak’s seven seniors are Raphael Matautia, Austin Cowley, Mikel Garner, Matthew Chavarria, Patrick Pickett, Eddie Arellano Jr. and David Sweeney.

Kodiak’s starters for the first three games, in no particular order, are Arellano, Chavarria and Brandon Mahle.

“We have three guys who can start and be really good,” Langfitt said.

Kodiak’s three games are all against San Diego area schools. The Bears open against Del Norte on Monday at 3:30 p.m., followed by Olympian on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., then play High Tech SD on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

Del Norte and Olympian have school sizes of more than 2,000, while High Tech SD is the size of Kodiak.

“It is really hard to predict how we are going to do,” Langfitt said. “They are California schools and have nice weather and good fields and year-round play.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we did well. The biggest drawback is that we haven’t played a game yet and haven’t faced live pitching in a game situation.”

Langfitt said playing these games should give Kodiak an edge when it opens its Alaska season at home on April 29 against Houston.

“I think they will help us … playing at least three games is probably worth a weeks worth of practice,” Langfitt said.

On the trip, Kodiak athletes will attend a San Diego State baseball game on Sunday and a San Diego Padres game on Thursday.

“Lots of baseball and hopefully we don’t have to go to a mall,” Langfitt said.

Kodiak qualified for state last season and finished with an 8-7 record.

Mirror writer Derek Clarkston can be reached via e-mail at sports@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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