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Following The Plan | Valley Christian Baseball At It Again

Valley Christian senior Quinten Marsh crosses home plate against Elk Grove High

One Year After A Heartbreaking NorCal Championship Loss, Valley Christian-San Jose Baseball Is Off To A 7-0 Start Behind Loads Of Returning Talent And A Familiar Guide

PICTURED ABOVE: Quinten Marsh crosses the plate against Elk Grove on Feb. 24. (David Gershon photo)

Watching another team skip, flail and rejoice on your field was borderline unbearable, but John Diatte and his Valley Christian-San Jose Warriors’ baseball team had no choice.

De La Salle-Concord had just scored six runs in the top of the seventh last June, capped by a two-out grand slam by Hank Tripaldi, to pull out one of the more emotional and unlikely comebacks imaginable to win the epic Northern California Division I championship game, 11-8, between NorCal’s two most dominating programs. 

Valley Christian’s brilliant 31-4 season, highlighted with an improbable perfect 14-0 West Catholic Athletic League crown and fifth Central Coast Section title in six years — along with a seemingly secure three-run seventh-inning lead — all came crashing down with a crushing season-ending defeat.  

“It was definitely tough to stomach,” Diatte said. 

The gut-punch was later softened somewhat when he learned that the game’s hero had lost his mother to breast cancer earlier in the spring, igniting the extra emotional celebration. 

Every team has its own journey, even a destiny, and Diatte took some solace knowing De La Salle found theirs. Even at the Warriors’ expense. 


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“Ultimately what I enjoyed most was reading a quote from (De La Salle coach David Jeans) who said, ‘God has a plan,’“ Diatte said. “I was sad for our team and our seniors at the time for sure. But I do believe that there is always a bigger plan, though I have zero idea what he had for me that day.” 

By every indication Diatte, the son of a 47-year paper-plant employee, was born to coach baseball and lead young men. 


Stanford-bound outfielder Tatum Marsh is one of Diatte’s many Division-1 talents this season. (David Gershon photo)

According to the CalHiSports record book, the 58-year-old owns the third-most wins among active coaches in the state with 736 victories against 265 defeats. He just passed Lowell’s John Donohue to rank No. 11 in state history and with this current talented lot — the Warriors graduated just two key players off last year’s team — he should move past four more retired coaches this season into the No. 7 spot. 

It would take 11 more 30-win seasons to catch state career leader John Stevenson of El Segundo (1,059-419), who coached 49 years. Diatte is starting year 35 at Valley Christian, a place he graduated from in 1984. 

“As long as I’m still part of the educational process and doing it for the right reasons, helping good young men get better in all facets of life, and as long as I have the help from coaches like I have now, I can see myself doing this for a long time,” he said. “Honestly, coaching helps keep me young. It gives me more energy.” 

Winning helps with all of it and the Warriors, over the last decade, have turned into a state and even a national juggernaut. Playing in Northern California’s best league, the Warriors have gone 138-28 since 2018 with five of the program’s 11 CCS titles. 

It’s helped to have plethora of talent, like the 2018 squad (29-3-1) which featured four players currently playing high-level minor league ball — pitchers William Kempner, Steven Zobac and Patrick Wicklander, along with outfielder Eddie Park, a Stanford standout, who was an eighth-round pick of the White Sox in 2023. 

Among the throngs of college scholarship players since 2019 are Mitch Birdsall (Kansas), Trevor Haskins (Stanford), Griffin Allen (Grand Canyon University), Jonathan Cymrot (Kansas), Jaxson Wall (GCU), Joshua Minami (Illinois Tech), Coleman Brigman (Santa Clara), William Kempner (Gonzaga) and Nicholas Marinconz (Long Beach State). 


Asked if the winning has attracted the talent or something else, Diatte admitted a change in his own personality and coaching style. Listing Billy Martin as one of his managerial idols, Diatte moved off the small/Billy Ball approach and gave more freedom to the modern big-swing, big-inning approach. 

More vital still has been greater personal attention to his players, replacing his hard-line ways — Diatte’s coaching career started as defensive coordinator and line coach for the football program — with a bigger picture view of kids and their new-world, fast-pace challenges.

He said it’s led to a much richer coaching experience, filled with authentic, long term relationships. When kids graduate from his program now, he feels it profoundly, like sending his own children off to college and the real world.   

Valley Christian (San Jose) catcher Jordan Ortiz receives a pitch against Elk Grove on Feb. 24.

“I think I’ve become a much better communicator,” Diatte said. “I think I’m much more understanding, which has lent itself to kids perhaps wanting to be part of the program. Our talent-level has for sure changed and part of that is me adapting and evolving.”   

With six players already committed to Division 1 programs, the talent pool this season is among the best Diatte has ever had, especially the Class of 2025. 

Outfielder Quinten Marsh is the only senior among the six who have committed. He and his brother Tatum, a pitcher and DH, are headed to Stanford. 

The others, all juniors, are pitcher/outfielder Brock Ketelsen (Stanford), outfielder Hunter Fujimoto (Santa Clara), pitcher Rohan Kasanagotu (USC) and catcher Jordan Ortiz (LMU). 

All the juniors started as sophomores, making last year’s run all the more remarkable. 

“It’s a fun group, pretty athletic and we can really pitch,” Diatte said. 


The emphasis on pitching has been another huge key to Valley Christian’s rise to national prominence, which has been furthered by longtime pitching coach Adam Varteressian, who previously was the head coach at Saratoga High School. 

The experience and loyalty from other savvy assistants Andrew Simon, Gabe Espitia and Shorty Gutierrez has also been key. 

“I think the center of the mound and the depth we’ve had there has been a huge part of our fortune,” Diatte said. “You can’t win without the horses. We’ve been very lucky.” 

But managing pitching is perhaps the most delicate part of the game, and Diatte said one of his great influences was former San Jose State and Santa Clara University coach John Oldham, 91, who passed away recently.  

“He was very detailed in all aspects of the game, but he was particularly an amazing pitching coach,” Diatte said. 

Starting pitcher Rohan Kasamagotu threw four hitless innings against Elk Grove in the team’s second win of the season.

Diatte got the text of Oldham’s death during the middle of Valley Christian’s 1-0 win over Elk Grove on Feb. 24 to improve to 2-0. Kasanagotu and Ketelsen combined on a two-hitter with eight strikeouts. It was a pitching gem that seemed to honor a man who treasured pitching greatness. 

Perhaps the baseball Gods do have a plan. 

“He was definitely his own man,” Diatte said of Oldham. “He was a great coaching mentor who had an amazing coaching career. He will be missed.” 

Email SBLive Sports editor Mitch Stephens at

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