APTOS — Aptos High’s trio of David Reckers, Paige Dueck and Monserrat Hernandez Marquez all signed their respective letters of intent to NCAA Division I programs on Tuesday morning in front of dozens of friends, family, faculty and classmates.
Reckers signed with Cal State Bakersfield for baseball, Dueck signed with Santa Clara University for soccer and Hernandez Marquez made good on her verbal commitment to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo from a year ago.
Reckers, a right-handed pitcher for the Mariners, made up his mind two months ago and officially signed before Tuesday’s ceremony in the lobby of the school’s performing arts center. Still, the event was special.
“It was more about making it official,” he said. “It’s still exciting to do it.”
Over the last three seasons, Reckers has been one of the top pitchers in Santa Cruz County. Last spring, the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder posted a 0.66 earned run average, according to the stats kept on MaxPreps.com, and paced the Mariners in strikeouts (32).
Reckers, who relies on a 93-mile-per-hour fastball and a nasty curve ball, flexed his muscle in a impressive 10-1 win over St. Francis High in which he struck out nine and allowed just one run on no hits.
“He’s a really nice kid but when he’s on the mound he gets mean,” said Aptos baseball coach Jason Biancardi. “He’s aggressive and he doesn’t get flustered at all. He enjoys it and loves the challenge — any challenge we throw him in.”
Reckers said he started playing baseball the second he could stand on his own two feet. His grandmother, Lana Mallory, would pitch a wiffle ball his way. He quickly fell in love with the game.
“As soon as I could pick up a baseball it was set in stone that that was what I wanted to do,” Reckers said.
At Cal State Bakersfield, Reckers will play along side St. Francis High alumnus Andrew Ciandro and current San Benito High senior Davonte Butler. He said he had spent the summer playing with Ciandro and Butler on the Watsonville Aggies.
“That just kind of fell into place but I know they’re good guys — we get along,” Reckers said. “I know they’re going to have my back there so might as well go play for a school where I know a couple of guys. I know I play well with them and they’ll play well for me.”
Dueck won’t have any teammates from the county waiting for her at Santa Clara but she will be a short drive away from her older sister Madison, who plays beach volleyball at Cal on scholarship.
Dueck comes from a volleyball family. Her younger sister, Peyton, and cousin, Cameron, star for the Mariners’ volleyball team, which played for a Central Coast Section championship on Saturday.
She played varsity volleyball as a sophomore but decided to stick to soccer last season.
“I just love it so much,” said Dueck, who started playing soccer when she was 6. “It’s such a fun game and I have such supporting teammates like Monse.”
A top-flight athlete herself, Dueck was named the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League’s Offensive Player of the Year after helping Aptos to its fourth straight league championship.
The midfielder who can play all over the field had eight goals and six assists last season.
She said she took her first official visit to Santa Clara in late September, a few weeks after she had already committed.
Walking around the campus and meeting some of the coaches and players only solidified her feelings about the Broncos.
“I had the gut feeling to chose Santa Clara,” Dueck said. “So I did.”
Hernandez Marquez, meanwhile, had been waiting for more than a calendar year to sign her letter of intent after verbally committing to Cal Poly before the start of her junior year.
The wait only made inking her letter on Tuesday sweeter.
“Everything I’ve done, everything I worked for comes down to this moment,” Hernandez Marquez said. “Signing day, it’s obviously exciting.”
A special player with the ball at her feet, Hernandez Marquez has been the Mariners’ catalyst each of the last two seasons. Last season, she was named the SCCAL’s Most Valuable Player — the first junior to earn the honor in nearly a decade — while scoring 20 goals and making 11 assists.
Hernandez Marquez grew up in a soccer family and learned much of the game from her brother, Bryan, a former standout for Watsonville High.
She made her final official visit to the school in October. Needless to say, her commitment to the program and school only grew stronger.
“It pretty much brought it all together,” Hernandez Marquez said. “I just said, ‘this is the right place for me. This is where I want to be.’”
Aptos girls soccer coach Jessica Perkin said she saw a little bit of herself in her two players on Tuesday. She still has fond memories of signing her letter of intent to Santa Clara back at Union Catholic Regional High in Scotch Plains, New Jersey in front of a big crowd of supporters.
“It was a big moment because it made it real,” said Perkin, an NCAA national champion with Santa Clara as a freshman in 2001. “I always get chills talking about it. You work so hard for it for a long time and you know it’s going to happen, but then you sign the paper and it becomes reality.”
MITCHELL COMMITS TO UCSD
Santa Cruz County resident and Bellarmine College Prep senior Michael Mitchell recently signed his letter of intent to play baseball at UC San Diego.
Mitchell, a right-handed pitcher for the Bells, said the NCAA Division II Tritons were one of the first teams to show interest in him.
After traveling to the area for a showcase during the summer and seeing the baseball culture, Mitchell, who attended St. Francis High as a freshman, said his mind was made up.
“As soon as I went down there,” Mitchell said in a phone interview on Tuesday, “I knew it was the place for me.”
Armed with a fast ball in the low 90s, a slider, a curve and a change-up, Mitchell is one of several serviceable pitchers on the roster for Bellarmine, which last year finished ranked 29th in the state and has won six CCS championships.
Mitchell said he tries to mimic the game of Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer when he is on the mound.
“He hunts for the kill,” Mitchell said. “The batter is not your friend. He attacks people.”