State honor goes to retiring Steve Vickery from El Capitan of Lakeside. He guided team to first 30-win season and leaves as the second-winningest coach in CIF San Diego Section history. Rick Lepire, Greg Largent also are named for large schools, small schools.
Contributing: Mark Tennis, Paul Muyskens
In 33 years of coaching high school baseball, El Capitan of Lakeside head coach Steve Vickery has won many awards, including the 2011 California Interscholastic Federation Model Coach award and the 2011 California Baseball Coaches Association Coach of the Year honors. He's also going into a national baseball coaching hall of fame later this summer.
Now, after leading his Vaqueros to a school record 31 wins (seven losses) and a runner-up finish in the CIF San Diego Section Division III playoffs, the affable Vickery, who is retiring with 647 victories, has been named the 2012 ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year.
Steve joins his younger brother, retired Santana of Santee girls basketball coach Wade Vickery, as the winningest siblings in California prep history. Wade had 610 victories in 26 years, giving the brothers 1,257 wins combined.
Wade’s name is already on the list of winningest girls basketball coaches in the Cal-Hi Sports state record book. Now Steve will get his name in the book on the list for most career wins in baseball. He joins San Diego Rancho Bernardo’s Sam Blalock, the 1989 State Coach of the Year, now retired San Diego Mission Bay’s Dennis Pugh, the 1996 State Coach of the Year, and Dick Serrano, who retired from the old San Diego University.
Since 1933, the year Cal-Hi Sports chose to start naming a state coach of the year for baseball through research at the state library, Vickery is the ninth from the CIF San Diego Section. The last CIFSDS winner was Rob Phillips of Grossmont League rival El Cajon Grossmont after the 2008 season.
During his career, the 60-year old Vickery has captured 12 league titles, four section titles, and four runner-ups. This group, which includes 6-foot-5, 229-pound four-year varsity left-handed pitcher and University of San Diego-bound Troy Conyers, won two of those titles before finishing second to San Diego Cathedral Catholic the last two seasons.
“Not only is he a great coach but he’s a great person,” said longtime San Diego area prep sports writer Steve Brand.
“It could have been a tad better season but I have no complaints. These kids were winners. Just by accomplishment, they have to be my best four-year group. It’s hard to beat what this group has done,” said Vickery, who wanted to talk more about his players than being honored.
“Conyers (9-2 record, 131 strikeouts) was the winning pitcher in the CIF title game his freshman and sophomore years, and lost last year, but we had to use him against St. Augustine (San Diego) so he wasn’t available this year. We had complete confidence in Shane Coleman (8-2 record) since he had beaten Cathedral Catholic and D1 (San Diego) Rancho Bernardo this season.”
Other players Vickery wanted to mention are senior pitcher Kevin Ginkel, a two-year varsity player that went 9-0 last year and 8-2 this season; three-year starter and clutch-hitting senior centerfielder Curren Facer, and junior three-year varsity catcher and third-baseman Eric Lozano.
Not just baseball
For his first five years as a coach, Vickery was at El Cajon Valhalla. Prior to that and right out of college he assisted in baseball, football and basketball at Valhalla.
“Wade and I went to El Capitan so I was looking for an opportunity to come back, and I’ve never regretted the move,” said Vickery, who between Valhalla and El Capitan was also a football assistant coach for 20 years.
On being honored
“It’s an absolute great honor to be named coach of the year, but I didn’t go into coaching chasing honors or wins. I went into it because I have a passion for the game and the relationships made.”
“They had a retirement party for me and a couple of my old players flew in. It really touched me that they made that kind of effort. When you’ve touched a lot of lives it makes you feel pretty good about what you’ve done for 33 years.
Jim Marchese, a 1989 grad that was drafted by St. Louis, flew in from Las Vegas. Nate Porter, a 1995 alum who played in college and is now a preacher in Colorado, flew in with his father. Several players from Vickery’s early years at Valhalla also attended.
Best players ever
Only two of his players donned Major League uniforms, 2002 grad Kyle Phillips, who was with the Padres last season, and his brother and 1995 alum Jason Phillips, who played for the Mets and Dodgers.
“My best player ever was Matt LaChappa, a left-handed pitcher from 1993 that was drafted in the second round by the Padres. He had a heart attack in the bullpen in A ball. He’s alive, but he’s a quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair. He was going places. What a tragedy.”
“I could never have done this without my wife Debbie (Vickery). We’ll be married 40 years on July 1st. She’s been a blessing and a great supporter. She knew I had a passion. What a trooper.”
Steve and Debbie have four grown children, including three sons he coached in football, and nine grandchildren.
Not totally retired
Vickery is leaving coaching but won’t fully retire until next year. The El Capitan athletic director and math and algebra teacher is actually taking on more, since he’ll be the math department chair in the fall.
“I didn’t want the shock of retiring all at once.”
When one of his granddaughters asked him what he would do in retirement, grandpa had the perfect answer.
“Maybe I’ll have time to coach girls softball I told her, and attend all the grandkids’ baseball and softball games.”
More Cal-Hi Sports State Baseball Coaches of the Year
Large Schools: Rick Lepire (Vista)
Lepire’s 16th year in charge of the Vista baseball program was a special one as he not only earned his 300th career coaching victory but his team also won the CIF San Diego Section Division I championship and our State Team of the Year honor.
Since he began his duties as Vista’s head coach in 1997, Lepire’s career record now stands at 314-189-2.
A two-time All-Garden Grove League selection in 1979 and 1980 while playing at La Quinta of Westminster, he first entered coaching in 1989 at his alma matter as the JV coach. At La Quinta, Lepire played and coached for Aztecs’ head coach Dave Demarest, who was the 1995 State Coach of the Year and won 753 games from 1973 to 2007.
The Panthers have made the playoffs in 15 of Lepire’s 16 years while winning at least 20 games in a season nine times. Major League players Trevor Cahill and Wes Littleton are among those that he has coached.
Small Schools: Greg Largent (Escalon)
Just like the football team, the Cougars’ baseball team has become a small school power. This year’s team under Largent’s direction captured the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship for the third straight season. And for the second year in a row, Escalon has finished as the Cal-Hi Sports Division IV state champion.
In the last four seasons, Largent’s teams have racked up a 107-8-1 record, which is the better than any other school in the state regardless of section or division. In his eight years, Escalon’s record also is 195-32-2 including seven Trans Valley League titles.
Previous small school state baseball coaches of the year from the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section have been Brad Gunter from Valley Christian of Roseville (2009), Mike Glines from Central Catholic of Modesto (2006) and Bob Amerman of Linden (2004).
State Baseball Coaches
Of The Year
(Selected by Cal-Hi Sports)
2012 — Steve Vickery, Lakeside El Capitan (31-7)
2011 — John Goulding, Union City James Logan (24-4)
2010 — Tom Donald, Clovis Buchanan (29-5)
2009 — Pete Jensen, San Mateo Serra (30-6)
2008 — Jeff Phillips, La Mesa Grossmont (29-7)
2007 — John Diatte, San Jose Valley Christian (33-4)
2006 — Spud O’Neil, Lakewood (29-5-1)
2005 — Bill Hutton, San Jose Mitty (28-6)
2004 — Rick Steen, Danville San Ramon Valley (25-8)
2003 — Justin Machado, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (32-1)
2002 — Dave Currie, Santa Clara Wilcox (34-3)
2001 — Tom Muesborn, Chatsworth (31-2)
2000 — Harry Jenkins, Torrance West (29-2)
1999 — Joe Walters, Santa Ana Calvary Chapel (27-1-1)
1998 — James Patrick, Clovis (33-2)
1997 — Dave Brunell, Santa Maria St. Joseph (29-0)
1996 — Dennis Pugh, San Diego Mission Bay (29-5)
1995 — Dave Demarest, Westminster La Quinta (28-3-1)
1994 — Ron LaRuffa, Fountain Valley (27-3-1)
1993 — Mike Maio, Woodland Hills El Camino Real (24-2)
1992 — Dan Peters, Long Beach Millikan (22-5-1)
1991 — Jeff Meredith, La Mesa Grossmont (28-1)
1990 — Mickey McNamee, San Marino (23-2-1)
1989 — Sam Blalock, San Diego Mt. Carmel (25-2)
1988 — Chris Sims, Moraga Campolindo (24-5)
1987 — Don Ardissone, San Jose Bellarmine (26-7)
1986 — Mike Curran, Anaheim Esperanza (25-3-1)
1985 — Dave Perkins, Hanford (23-5)
1984 — Darryl Stroh, Granada Hills (16-2-1)
1983 — Larry Quirico, El Cerrito (27-1)
1982 — Jim Garrett, Tulare (21-5)
1981 — Guy Anderson, Rancho Cordova (28-8)
1980 — Mike Noakes, Fresno Bullard (29-2)
1979 — John Bachman, Covina (27-3)
1978 — Al Endriss, Larkspur Redwood (30-5)
1977 — Lou Zuardo, South S.F. El Camino (28-1)
1976 — John Herbold, Lakewood (22-4-1)
1975 — Jack Hannah, Fresno Hoover (29-2)
1974 — Jim O’Brien, Torrance North (26-6-1)
1973 — John Stevenson, El Segundo (30-5)
1972 — Hi LaValle, Compton Dominguez (22-4-1)
1971 — Denny Holt, Sepulveda Monroe (19-0)
1970 — Dan Bodary, Lompoc (27-1)
1969 — Bob Myers, Long Beach Millikan (21-6)
1968 — Bill Sandback, San Diego Crawford (21-7)
1967 — Marvin Wood, Torrance Bishop Montgomery (27-3)
1966 — Bill Cox, Oakland St. Elizabeth (23-5)
1965 — Al Exton, Arcadia (21-4)
1964 — Bob Zuber, Van Nuys Birmingham (18-1)
1963 — Bill Kelly, Redondo Beach Aviation (20-3)
1962 — Dick Sperbeck, Sacramento Bishop Armstrong (22-2)
1961 — Elmo Ferrari, Ojai Villanova (17-0)
1960 — Jake Abbott, Fresno Roosevelt (20-2)
1959 — Howard Johnson, Inglewood Morningside (20-6)
1958 — Ken Proctor, Ontario Chaffey (20-5)
1957 — Ollie Bidwell, Fresno (22-2)
1956 — Bill Ziegler, Eureka (18-0)
1955 — Bob Patterson, Vallejo (20-1)
1954 — Ed Grimm, Redding Shasta (14-0)
1953 — Charles Doyle, Compton (23-2)
1952 — George Powles, Oakland McClymonds (16-0)
1951 — Cliff Perry, Sacramento McClatchy (22-0-1)
1950 — Harry Brubaker, L.A. Dorsey (17-0*)
1949 — Al Kyte, Oakland Technical (8-2, League)
1948 — Len Porterfield, Santa Maria (16-2)
1947 — Cliff Meyer, Long Beach Wilson (20-3)
1946 — Walt Williams, San Jose (17-2)
1945 — Pop Elder, S.F. Mission (10-0, League)
1944 — Bob Fatjo, San Jose Bellarmine (13-2)
1943 — Les Haserot, L.A. Fremont (13-1)
1942 — Roy Engle, San Diego Hoover (13-0 vs. Prep Teams)
1941 — Ras Johnson, S.F. Galileo (12-1*)
1940 — George Wolfman, S.F. Mission (11-1*)
1939 — Dewey Morrow, San Diego (22-5)
1938 — George Sperry, Glendale
1937 — Bernie Baumeister, S.F. Commerce (12-2, League)
1936 — Lyle Kinnear, Long Beach Polytechnic (23-2)
1935 — Ed Combatalade, Sacramento (20-1)
1934 — Myles Regan, L.A. Cathedral (13-5-1)
1933 — Kit Carlson, Santa Maria (9-1)
*League and playoff record
Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.