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Soquel standout Max Mendoza commits to Sacramento State | College baseball

Watsonville’s Max Mendoza, an incoming junior at Soquel High, didn’t need too much time to chew it over: Sacramento State’s baseball coaches wanted him and he wanted to be a Hornet.

Mendoza, a three-sport athlete for the Knights as a freshman, committed over the weekend to play baseball at the NCAA Division I university beginning in 2022-23.

“I’m excited,” he said of his early commitment on Tuesday. “I’m the kinda guy, when I find a good fit, I just want to put in as much as I can to be the best I can. I feel like God put Sac State in front of me; that’s not going to change. I’m a Hornet.”

Max Mendoza

Mendoza, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound middle infielder, said his family — parents Manny and Krsity and siblings Joe and Maddy — factored heavily into his decision. He was looking into Pac-12 Conference programs as well as West Virginia.

“Being close to home was huge for me,” Mendoza said. “My parents have put so much into helping me. Now, this is a way to make it as easy as possible for them to see me.”

It wasn’t just proximity that drew Mendoza to the state capital. He loved longtime head coach Reggie Christiansen and pitching coach Tyler LaTorre, an Aptos High alum who played professionally.

“I feel like it’s the best fit for me,” Mendoza said. “I feel like it was the best program. They’ll push me to improve, be patient with me, and get the best out of me. And we’ll win some games. When I heard about about the ’22 Class and talked to some guys, I had to be part of it.”

Sacramento State was 9-7 when its season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic in the spring. The Hornets went 40-25 and qualified for the Stanford Regional in 2019.

In addition to his family, Mendoza thanked Soquel baseball coach Robert Zuniga and Knights football coach Dwight Lowery for helping inspire him.

Mendoza weighed 175 pounds when football season ended in the fall. He has since added 30 pounds of muscle thanks to an increased caloric intake mixed with weightlifting.

Soquel High infielder Max Mendoza has committed to play baseball at NCAA Division I Sacramento State beginning in 2022-23. (Heribert Feliciano – Contributed)

“I was eating three sandwiches per class and running faster than I ever have,” he said. “In English class, I had to mix it up, because I was feeling like I was going to throw up. So I’d have salami, turkey and PB & J.

Zuniga said Mendoza, who also plays club ball for Troskey National, was off to a solid start in the spring, which was cut short by COVID-19. Still, the coach was impressed with the maturity Mendoza showed in his desire to improve.

“He is a good, good athlete,” Zuniga said. “He was fully committed. I wish I had more time with him. He was progressing the way I had hoped: size, speed, power, maturity … You don’t see that a lot. He showed the maturity to get better, to do the little things. That’s why I have high hopes for him. I’m excited to see him move forward.”

The CIF is expected to make an announcement July 20 about the future of high school sports for the upcoming year. Mendoza played quarterback and receiver for the Knights in the fall, but has since moved to middle linebacker and running back. On the diamond, he plays second, shortstop and outfield. He also played basketball as a freshman.

Asked what he would play if the CIF moves all fall sports to the spring, Mendoza didn’t have an answer.

“I don’t know yet,” he said. “I just want to play as many sports as I can.”

Two other baseball players from Santa Cruz County begin their college careers for Sacramento State in the fall: Tyler Keenan of Monte Vista Christian and Jack Bollengier of Aptos.

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