Jan. 8, 2013
BERKELEY - (Patrick Glaessner helped contribute to this story)
Left-handed hitting outfielder Aaron Knapp and right-hander Andrew Buckley, both members of Cal baseball's 2012 signing class who will join David Esquer's program in the fall of 2013, are also outstanding high school football players who led their schools to 2012 CIF state football titles in December.
On Dec. 14, during a cold and rainy night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., Knapp and his Granite Bay High School (Granite Bay, Calif.) teammates squared off against Long Beach Poly in the Division I California state championship game. The starting safety for the Grizzlies, Knapp averaged 4.0 tackles per game (58 on the year) and was a key player on special teams, returning punts and blocking two field goals. He also led his squad with six interceptions, including a key interception in the championship game.
After taking a 21-20 lead with under two minutes left in the game, the Grizzlies turned to their defense to stop the high-powered Long Beach Poly offense. With the Jackrabbits driving at mid-field, Long Beach Poly's quarterback threw deep to try to put his team in position for the win, but Knapp made a leaping interception to seal the state title for Granite Bay.
The next day (Dec. 15), on the same field, Buckley and his De La Salle High School (Concord, Calif.) teammates took on the Southern Division Open Champion Centennial Huskies for the state crown. A key player for the national renowned Spartans, Buckley was the team's starting wide receiver and safety, as well as handler of the punting and punt returning duties. He led De La Salle in receiving (33 receptions for 591 yards and seven touchdowns) and interceptions (six with 43 tackles) during the season, and in the championship game, helped hold a Centennial offense that averaged a state best 50.4 points per game, to only 28 points in the 48-28 Spartan win to finish the year a perfect 15-0.
"The Cal baseball program would like to congratulate Andrew and Aaron on their great success on the football field," said Esquer. "We look forward to the contributions these top athletes will bring to Evans Diamond next season."
A left-handed hitting outfielder, Aaron Knapp is the younger brother of Cal junior standout Andrew Knapp and the son of former Bear catcher Mike Knapp. Aaron Knapp hit .434 as a junior with 32 runs, nine doubles, two triples, a home run and 20 RBI. Knapp also had 18 walks, 10 stolen bases and a .536 on-base percentage and a .645 slugging percentage during his junior campaign. He was selected a California Region Honorable Mention Rawlings All-American in 2012, and was a Perfect Game USA Honorable Mention All-American in 2010 and 2011.
"Aaron Knapp has the unique set of skills that will allow him to be successful immediately at the college level," said Cal hitting coach Tony Arnerich. "Aaron has great speed and an understanding of the game that is way beyond his years. I am excited to see those skills continue to develop. He is a great defender and baserunner, and has very good bat control. Aaron's understanding of the game, combined with his abilities and character, make him a perfect fit for the Cal baseball program."
De La Salle's top pitcher as a junior, Buckely went 5-2 with a 1.71 ERA, two complete games and 53 strikeouts in 2012. He only allowed five extra base hits in 31 hits allowed and had a .187 opponent batting average. Buckley had a complete game win in the North Coast Section title game with 10 strikeouts. He was a high school teammate of current Bear freshmen Mitchell Kranson and Sean Peters, and throws his fastball between 87-90 with a slider and change-up.
"Andrew Buckley is one of the toughest competitors that I have seen on the mound and will bring an element of toughness and work ethic to our program that will raise the bar for our pitchers," said Cal pitching coach Mike Neu. "He is also an outstanding athlete which he obviously showcases on the football field by starting at multiple skill positions for one of the best high school football programs in the country."
The Bears have finalized their spring schedule that features 26 home games at Evans Diamond, including hosting a three-game series against Michigan, Feb. 15-17 in Berkeley to open the 2013 campaign. Cal's non-conference schedule also includes a four-game series at UC Irvine, three games at the Houston College Classic (versus Baylor, North Carolina and Houston at Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros) and a four-game home series versus Fresno State. Cal will also be hosting Pac-12 series versus USC, Oregon, Washington State, Arizona State and Stanford this spring at Evans Diamond.
Cal Baseball fans should also make plans to attend the second annual Fan Fest, Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 at 11 a.m. at Evans Diamond. Following the Fan Fest festivities, there will be a Blue-Gold intrasquad scrimmage beginning at 1 p.m.