NCS Sophomore of the Year
BLAKE BURKE, DE LA SALLE
It is not often that a sophomore is a known commodity throughout a section or a region, but that was exactly the case this year with De La Salle’s Blake Burke, who entered the year with a label as one of the top bats in a loaded Spartans’ lineup. He did not disappoint.
After winning the program’s Silver Slugger award in 2018, given annually to the best hitter on the team, Burke faced fewer good pitches to hit as a sophomore and was asked to take on multiple responsibilities defensively, playing both the outfield and first base. And while his power numbers may have dipped slightly from his first year, his overall approach improved and he was standing on base more often than not following a plate appearance.
“Guys tried to pitch around him this year, and he simply improved his on-base percentage. He was a big reason why Chris Santiago had such a great year with RBIs,” said De La Salle coach David Jeans. “He did a better job of not chasing pitches and using the whole field.”
Indeed, Burke’s on-base percentage was .513 for the entire year, and despite walking 17 times, he was still second on the team with 28 RBIs, trailing only Santiago, who hit behind Burke in the lineup. His ability to be patient and adjust to the pitches he received was evident in the section title game, when he collected two hits and a walk, and scored twice, in a championship win over Heritage. It was also part of a larger conscious decision going into the year.
“I didn’t want the off-field talk to get into my head this year, so I just stayed focused on what I was working on,” Burke said. “I came into the year working on being patient for my pitch to hit, and just putting my best swing on it when it came.”
Despite seeing fewer good pitches to hit, Burke still slugged 14 extra-base hits, including four home runs. Meanwhile, he bounced back and forth between first base and right field, depending on who was pitching. That led to an additional area of focus, one which will remain in place headed into next year.
“I want to continue to focus on taking the walk, and also improving my defense at first base,” Burke added.
Meanwhile, Burke also remains focused on not only his personal success, but also the team around him. That’s not surprising, considering that he came through as a clutch player in some of the biggest games. He had multi-hit games in both the section semifinals and the title game, drove in four runs during a non-league rout over SJS Division I runner-up Jesuit and also had multiple three-hit games, including a big 3-for-3 performance during a 7-5 win over Don Bosco Prep in the semifinals of the All-Catholic Classic, a stretch of games which really cemented the potential of this year’s group at De La Salle.
“After the Vegas tournament, we really knew this was a special team,” Burke said. “We came together and beat some really good teams.”
The term special would be appropriate when describing a team which won 28 straight games, finished 30-1 and captured both the EBAL and NCS titles. And Burke was a key part of it the entire way.
For his efforts throughout the season, we are pleased to recognize Blake Burke as the Prep2Prep North Coast Section Sophomore of the Year.
Other players considered include Heritage’s Cristian Machado, American Canyon’s Tyree Reed, Alhambra’s Lucas Ringenburg, Piedmont’s Ben Levinson and McKinleyville’s Corbin Eichin.