The Orange County Riptide is set to return to action after a year hiatus after the California Collegiate League’s 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19. The 2021 OC Riptide roster is filled with top-level talent and will be coached by a staff that has vast experience at every level of baseball.
The coaching staff is led by head coach Mitch LeVier who will begin his second stint with the Orange County Riptide this summer as the field manager and hitting instructor. He was last with the team in 2018 as an assistant coach. As a sophomore outfielder at Fullerton College, he was named the 2008 Southern California Junior College Player of the Year before being drafted by the Oakland A’s in the ninth round of the 2008 MLB Draft.
Tim Brown will serve multiple roles for the Riptide, one of which is associate head coach. Brown has coached summer collegiate baseball across North America including the Cape Cod League, New England Collegiate Baseball League, Great Lakes Collegiate Summer League, and the West Coast League. Levier said that Brown does a lot for the organization and has a lot of experience.
The Riptide’s pitching coach will be Randy Barber, who serves the same position at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Barber has coached in various summer collegiate leagues including the Alaska League for the Alaska Goldpanners and was an associate scout for the Detroit Tigers. LeVier said he met Barber through his brother who hired him as the pitching coach at San Juan Hills High School.
Barber will be aided by pitching assistant Cody Gutierrez who is in his first year with the Riptide. He is the head coach at Buena Park High School currently and pitched for Graceland University.
Sam Tetrault, a senior student manager and bullpen catcher for the University of Arizona baseball team, will serve as a graduate assistant for the Riptide. Prior to this summer, he coached with various travel ball organizations.
The staff is rounded out by strength and conditioning coach Josh Reidt. He has trained athletes for over 15 years, is the owner/founder of Reidt Fitness Systems, and is also the head strength coach for the Evoshield Canes, Huntington Beach Oilers and the Jserra Lions.
The Riptide infield has an interesting mix of athletes who can play strong defense and hit very well. Riptide General Manager Moe Geoghagen said that he has some question marks about the unit’s offensive ability as a whole, however a few bats stick out to him in particular.
“Our infield I have some question marks about offensively, but not at first base,” said Geoghegan. “Between Jack-Thomas Wold and Reed Spenrath, we’ve got a lot of pop there. The other three spots are going to be a combination of us needing good defense, but you’ve got to hit a little bit too at the same time.”
Wold will be an integral part of the infield this summer as a big bat from UNLV. He is hitting .429 this spring which currently ranks fourth in the country with 12 homers and 43 RBIs as of press time. He also gets on base nearly every other time with a .491 on base percentage, good for 37th in the nation as of May 25th.
“He’s a fourth-year junior who played in the Cape Cod League in 2019 – we kind of lucked into getting him a little bit,” said Geoghegan. “He’s having a phenomenal year for UNLV.”
Reed Spenrath, a TCU commit, comes out of Cisco College in Texas. He was at Texas A&M for a year before leaving for Cisco where he’s hit .403 with 13 home runs and 70 RBIs for the season.
Vanderbilt commit and graduating high school senior Davis Diaz is another exciting player in this group who is a multi-time member of Team USA Baseball and was one of the top-ranked shortstops in California in his class. Geoghegan said that Diaz’s defensive talent is his strength and that he’s been around good competition in the past.
The outfielders are a very interesting group that have lots of talent and potential starting with Tennessee’s Kyle Booker. Geoghegan said he could enormously benefit from this summer after already logging playing time this spring as a freshman. He is hitting .304 as of May 25th.
“When I look at the roster there’s one guy that can use the summer as a springboard to something bigger and better for him and that’s Kyle Booker out of Tennessee,” said Geoghegan. “[Tennessee] told us from day one that they would have a hard time keeping him off the field this spring and that they think he has potential to be an All-SEC guy in a couple years.”
Georgia’s Dwight Allen is someone who was highly recruited in high school, has good size and is super athletic, but like many other young players around the country this year, was redshirted in 2021. The Bulldogs have three or four upperclassmen outfielders with proven talent that came back to school after getting a year of eligibility back due to the COVID-19 shortened season in 2020 . Geoghegan also mentioned Austin Kyrszczuk of UNLV as a potential lead-off hitter for the Riptide.
Behind the dish the Riptide have a pair of proven and talented players in Buster Posey Award Semifinalist Eric Bigani of UNLV and Seth Beckstead who committed to Tulane after playing for Central Arizona College.
Geoghegan said that he has no concerns with the catchers this summer and believes that Tennessee’s Charlie Taylor, the youngest of the backstops, may have the greatest potential of the group. He was looking to secure the Tennessee backup catcher spot as a freshman after a strong fall showing at the plate and defensively, but was ultimately redshirted.
When it comes to this year’s pitching staff, both LeVier and Geoghegan said that it is probably the biggest question mark of the team. Many incoming Riptide arms couldn’t get on the field at the their respective schools because of upperclassmen taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA.
“I think the pitching staff is kind of our biggest question mark,” said LeVier. “Just because there’s guys that haven’t thrown a lot this spring. There also wasn’t a fall season for a lot of these guys to compete and prove what they can do.”
“The experience level is a bit of a question mark,” said Geoghegan about the pitching staff. “The biggest thing with summer baseball is can they throw strikes and compete?”
However, Geoghegan did say that he thinks the staff’s depth on the mound will help the team in the long run as it will allow the coaching staff to have different options. This can be attributed to the relationships the Riptide has built with various college staffs over the years. This year the Riptide will roster around 20 pitchers.
“We have some great relationships with top schools with pitchers,” said Geoghegan. “They send us good arms because we’re all about protecting our pitchers. They actually like that we have a deep pitching staff. It never puts us in a position to have to throw a kid or ever risk injury.”
Geoghegan said the 2017 OC Riptide team, a squad that won the California Collegiate League Championship that year, were successful in part because of a lights-out bullpen. That type of pitching depth is something the staff hopes to have in their arsenal this summer.
“We typically have our starter go only four or five innings, so we’re probably going to throw three or four guys a game,” said Geoghegan. “We’re hoping we can identify four or five guys that we can put on the back end to fill that role.”
Overall, the 2021 Riptide appear to have a lineup filled with talent and potential with a pitching staff that has youth and lots of depth for a dedicated coaching staff and front office with lots of experience to work with.
The 2021 OC Riptide’s regular season begins on June 8th at Orange County Great Park against the San Diego Waves at 6 p.m. PDT.