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Charter Cove eager to show it belongs

Charter Cove head coach Jon Garkow remembers getting home after last year's West Regionals and reflecting in disbelief on what just happened.

Only two days before, Garkow's Post 755 squad arrived in Arizona for its first regional experience as California's No. 2 representative. Things went downhill from there, though, as Charter Cove melted in the desert heat and suffered two straight losses to leave Garkow's head spinning.

"This year we're going to go in with not such bright eyes," says the second-year head coach.

Charter Cove comes to Medford as the California runner-up for the second straight season, giving the team that much more motivation to put its best foot forward.

"I would say we have a little chip on our shoulder," says Garkow, whose program is only in its sixth season. "We have a little bit more to prove because we know we're playing against state champions coming in there. We may be looking like the ugly stepchild now, but that's not going to deter us in any way because I truly believe we have a state championship-caliber team and we can play with anybody in this country."

Charter Cove's background certainly supports that theory.

Post 755 was in command during the California state tournament as the only undefeated team heading into the final day, but a 5-4 loss in 11 innings to San Bernardino extended the tourney. The Post 14 squad completed the sweep with a 20-12 victory to pry away a potential first state title for Charter Cove. San Bernardino plays this week in the West Regional in Fairfield, Calif., while Charter Cove heads north.

"We were in position to win the state title but at the same time, we always wanted to come to Medford, believe it or not," says Garkow with a chuckle. "That was our goal, to get to Medford. We just didn't know it would mean getting there by losing the state title."

Garkow's son Tyler is the team's top pitcher and was a redshirt freshman at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., this past school season. The right-hander pitched Charter Oak High School to the state title in 2007 at Dodgers Stadium, so performing on a big stage is certainly not a concern.

Tyler Garkow is in his third season with Charter Cove and 15 pounds of added muscle on his 6-foot-2 frame this year has allowed him to enjoy more success on the mound. Garkow is able to spot up the ball with good movement on his offerings.

Kenny Kissell, who is headed to Mt. SAC, is a fine complement as the No. 2 pitcher and first baseman. The hard-throwing right-hander is 8-3 this summer.

Helping make the pitchers effective has been veteran catcher and No. 3 hitter Jake Bailey. The 5-10, 180-pounder calls the pitches and has used his quick-strike ability to keep teams honest on the basepaths.

"Jake Bailey would have to be the key to everything," says Jon Garkow. "He calls our pitches and runs the game, and has a tremendous ability to hit the ball hard."

Center fielder Josh Surdo has been the team's top hitter this summer and was co-MVP in the district playoffs with teammate Kevin Jones. The 5-9, 150-pounder hits second.

"That kid is just tremendous at putting the ball in play," says the head coach. "He has an uncanny ability to put the ball where people aren't."

Leadoff hitter Jake Loefke stands only 5-6 and is 140 pounds but has a similar knack of reaching base from the left side and, once there, the outfielder isn't shy about stealing a base or two.

A throwing-arm injury sustained by shortstop Matt Santiago a few weeks ago meant the switch from second base by Jonah Northrop, but he has taken the move in stride, while utility player Matt Ayers has provided a do-it-all presence for Charter Cove.

Loefke, Northrop, Surdo and Ayers each had three hits in the championship loss to San Bernardino last week.

Brent Millan (6-2, 205) bats cleanup and splits time between third base and his new role of No. 3 pitcher in place of Joe Reynoso, who was hit in the head with a fastball during district play. X-rays revealed a massive tumor in the back of Reynoso's head that, fortunately, is benign. He's since been sidelined while undergoing treatment to shrink the tumor.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com