Gateway: Sports

After making 3A SSC all-league basketball team, Gig Harbor sophomore Toglia breaking out in baseball

Zach Toglia has opened plenty of eyes on the basketball court in his short time at Gig Harbor High School. The sophomore has been a two-year varsity player for Billy Landram’s squad and was named to the all-league second team in the Class 3A South Sound Conference this past season.

Turns out he’s pretty good on the baseball diamond, too. In his first varsity season this spring, Toglia is leading the team in hitting, batting .442 with a team-high 19 RBI. In league play, he’s hitting .536 with 16 RBI.

“I’ve been trying really hard to hit the fastball,” Toglia said. “It’s been really working out for me. I’m ready for the curveball. Just getting my foot down early, getting to the fastball if I need to and sitting back if I see a hanging curveball. My goal is just to hit line drives and hit the ball hard.”

For longtime Gig Harbor coach Pete Jansen, it doesn’t come as a surprise that confident Toglia is having a big season. As an eighth grader, Jansen recalls Toglia walking up to himself and Landram at a graduation party at the Gig Harbor Golf Club.

“He tells Billy, ‘I want to play varsity basketball next year as ninth-grader,’” Jansen said.

He did just that. For those familiar with the Toglia family, the athleticism should come as no surprise, either. The eldest Toglia, Michael, is currently a star player for the UCLA baseball team and is a projected early-round 2019 Major League Baseball draft pick. And the middle son, Sebastian, is currently a senior alongside Zach on the baseball team.

“The whole Toglia family, they’re all just super competitive and confident,” Jansen said.

Zach Toglia said he’s been enjoying playing alongside his older brother this season, and both brothers have given him plenty of advice.

“It’s special,” he said. “Not many people get to have two older brothers like that. If I’m able to text Michael and say ‘Hey, I’m kind of struggling at the plate right now, do you have any tips for me?’ He gives me tips all the time, what to look for in pitches, helps me out defensively. It’s truly remarkable having two older brothers who play baseball and I’m close with.”

The best piece of advice he’s received from Michael? Play the game like no one is watching.

“Just to pretend you’re facing your best friend in Wiffle ball,” Toglia said. “Nobody is there watching, nobody cares. You’re just having fun. That’s what you want to do. Just have fun at the plate, don’t worry about anyone watching you, just hit the ball hard and have fun.”

Defensively, Toglia has been strong at third base, also.

“We’re super confident in him,” said Gig Harbor pitcher Owen Wild. “When they hit a ball to him, it feels like he’s going to make the play every time. He’s just a really good athlete and has been really consistent. He’s stepped up in a big way, for a sophomore especially. He just produces every time with runners on and is a big RBI guy.”

Hitting in the bottom third of the lineup this season, Toglia has had plenty of chances to drive runs in, and he’s capitalized.

“He likes to hit in the clutch and every time he comes up, there’s guys on base,” Jansen said. “So he was getting a lot of opportunities to drive in runs in the 6, 7, 8 hole. When he gets two strikes on him, I have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to put the ball into play.”

As with any young high school player, Toglia is still growing. He’s working on hitting the ball more often up the middle and to the opposite field.

As for his future: Will it be in basketball or baseball?

“I always get asked that,” Toglia said. “I love them both equally. If I had to say, I’d probably say my future is a little brighter in baseball. I might have the right skill set, more than I do for basketball.”