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Colin Kaepernick flashed arm against Lodi bats

Flames, Tigers both faced off against the San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback during his high school baseball days

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“(Colin) had an absolute cannon for an arm. He would just bomb them to me.” — Former Lodi Flame Matt Fuson, on attending football camp with Colin Kaepernick

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2013 12:00 am

Twenty-one wins. Two out of three over rival St. Mary's. A league championship and a trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section semifinals.

Tokay High's 2006 baseball campaign was stellar, but the run ended just short of a second straight title game. Needing two wins to stay alive, the Tigers fell, 6-3, to second-seeded Pitman on May 26 — their bats stymied by a tall, lanky flamethrower from Turlock.

Seven years before helping send the 49ers to the Super Bowl, Colin Kaepernick sent Tokay packing.

"He was talented all the way around," Tigers coach Aaron Misasi recalls. "Those kind of guys stand out ... men among boys."

And before being the main man under center for San Francisco, Kaepernick wowed the area as a heralded pitcher, one who dueled with both Lodi-area high schools in his Pitman career. After Lodi High got the best of him a year earlier, he eliminated Tokay during an impressive final season.

Kaepernick — who was even more wiry as a high school senior, at 6-foot-5, 190 pounds — tossed a complete game, taming Tokay with a one-hitter through six innings at Stockton's Billy Hebert Field.

Misasi's club cobbled together a short-lived rally in the seventh, behind a two-run double from Brett Morgan and an Alex Rivers RBI single, but found little consistent offense against Kaepernick's heat.

"The first thing I recall was how dominant his fastball was. He was clocked at around 88 to 92 mph," Misasi said of Kaepernick. "We don't see that (kind of speed) a lot in our area throughout the year, so it's tough to hit. He was pretty much in control the whole time."

The eventual 49ers starter allowed four hits that Friday, while walking five and striking out three. The win propelled Pitman into the section championship series at Lodi's Zupo Field, where Kaepernick and company were swept by Elk Grove.

Misasi said Kaepernick's name was well-known in the area during his senior year. While quarterbacking at Nevada in 2009, he was a 43rd round draft pick of the MLB's Chicago Cubs, and that playoff run at Pitman showed why. Kaepernick finished his final high school season with a 9-2 record and 1.27 Earned Run Average, throwing nine complete games and three shutouts.

"He had a strong arm, for sure," said Michael Holst, who covered the Tigers' elimination game for the Lodi News-Sentinel. "He just had a whip, that's what it seemed like when he was throwing it. The velocity was really impressive."

(Holst, now a defensive coordinator for Tokay's football team, was glad Kaepernick had long graduated before the Tigers faced Pitman in last fall's playoffs. "We had enough trouble," he quipped. "We didn't need him on the other side, too.")

While Kaepernick was a thorn in Tokay's side as a senior, his showdown with Lodi the year before ended differently. Back on March 3, 2005, the Flames capped a 3-0 start to the season with a 7-2 thumping of Pitman. Kaepernick took the loss, after Lodi tagged him for three runs, six hits and six walks over 4 and 2/3 innings.

Former Flames standout Matt Fuson, who scored two of those runs, said he knew of the Turlock product even back then — but that Kaepernick became especially touted the following year.

"I remember him being super well-spoken. ... I don't think anybody knew how good he was," Fuson said. "He really blew up later."

Fuson's most vivid memory of Kaepernick comes not the baseball diamond that day, but rather on the football field. A former star running back at Lodi, Fuson attended a 7-on-7 football camp in the Bay Area, where he played slot receiver and caught deep balls from Kap himself.

Fuson's verdict?

Similar to that of NFL observers today.

"(Colin) had an absolute cannon for an arm," he recalls. "He would just bomb them to me."

A die-hard 49ers fan, Fuson is glad those bombs will be thrown for the red and gold: "Oh, I'm super stoked."

Contact reporter Ed Yevelev at edy@lodinews.com.

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