Mike Toglia hasn’t been taking it easy after making his commitment to play baseball at UCLA next season. In fact, he’s been working harder than ever.
“It’s been awesome knowing I can go to such a great program school-wise and sport-wise, but at the same time, I don’t have it any easier,” Toglia said. “If anything, I have to work harder than everyone else to achieve my goal of playing as a freshman and being a main contributor my freshman year. It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
Toglia, a 6-foot-5 pitcher and outfielder for the Tides who grew about an inch in the offseason, certainly looks the part of a baseball player. And he’s got the skills to match. And Pac-12 schools weren’t the only ones taking notice — Toglia has met with a number of representatives from Major League Baseball teams over the past year.
If Toglia expressed a desire to turn professional instead of going to college, he’d likely be drafted come June.
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“It’s definitely an option,” Toglia said. “I talked to some different people about that. I haven’t really come to a decision. Right now, I see college as being the best route. Obviously, there are different scenarios where you have to consider both. I’m definitely not closing that door yet, but I’m pretty heavily leaning toward college.”
Toglia, a switch-hitter, batted .316 for the Tides during the regular season in the three-hole, hitting six doubles, five triples, four home runs and racking up 20 RBIs for the Tides. He’s not the only star returner for Gig Harbor. Senior catcher Jon Burghardt, a Washington State commit who led the team with a .392 batting average a season ago, figures to be a big part of Gig Harbor’s success this season behind the plate and batting cleanup.
“Last year, I just got way more confident,” Burghardt said. “The year before, I was just younger. I played 18U summer ball. I feel like that experience helped me last year. I came in with a whole new confidence and hit pretty well.”
Burghardt and Toglia have a lot of value in their bats, but they’re just as valuable for the Tides on the other side of the ball. With Matthew Henckel’s departure to the University of Oregon, Toglia slides into the No. 1 starter spot. Burghardt doesn’t mind catching for his close friend, to say the least.
“(Catching Toglia) is the easiest thing in the world,” Burghardt said. “He hits his spots every time. We’re on the same page all the time. He doesn’t leave anything over the middle. To a (number) four-hitter, if anything, he’ll miss outside or miss low. He won’t miss up. He won’t make that mistake pitch that other guys usually do.”
Coach Pete Jansen, now in his 27th year at the helm, likes what he sees from his senior captains, which also includes senior shortstop Colton Robinson.
“They bring experience, a good attitude,” Jansen said. “They know what it’s like to be successful. The whole group of kids is just a really great group of kids. On paper, we’re very strong.”
Jansen praised Toglia and Burghardt for their fierce competitiveness. Jansen actively looks for players who want to thrive in pressure situations instead of shying away from them. Toglia and Burghardt fit that mold.
“(Burghardt) wants to be in that situation where he has a chance to perform,” Jansen said. “The challenge is there, and he accepts it and looks forward to it. (Toglia) is a fierce competitor. He wants the ball. When he’s pitching, he doesn’t have any second thoughts about being out there. He wants to be in a situation where he can perform.”
Jansen’s biggest problem with this year’s team is a good one: He has too many pitchers. Right now, there’s no one slotted as the No. 2, although junior WSU commit Avery Jones figures to be in the conversation.
“We don’t know who No. 2 is,” Jansen said. “We have 10 pitchers. We have five or six pitchers that are so close that I can’t tell you who No. 2 is. The problem is finding enough innings for everyone. It’s an extremely nice problem to have. We have 10 pitchers you can put on the mound and they’d do a pretty nice job. Whoever performs will get the opportunity to perform again.”
Gig Harbor rode outstanding pitching all the way through the West Central District III tournament last season, which culminated in a third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament in Bellingham.
“I’m really confident in our team this year,” Toglia said. “I think there’s a ton of talented guys on this team. It’s maybe one of the most talented teams Gig Harbor has had in a while. But with that being said, I still think we aren’t entitled to anything. We have the same goal as every other team, winning a state title. But just because I’m confident in our guys doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed that spot. We still have to go out there and win every game and show other teams that we can play Tides baseball.”