New baseball coaches have a shared passion


Taking over an Empire prep baseball program is challenging, even for coaches with experience leading other high school teams.

More daunting is putting together a school’s first team.

What this season’s four new Empire varsity coaches share is a passion for baseball and teaching the game.

“I’ve been coaching ever since I was in high school,” said Justin Herrguth, brought in to establish Sonoma Academy’s fledgling program. “Teaching baseball is fun. I love helping them overcome challenges and persevere.”

Also taking over programs this season are Brian Houghtelling at El Molino; Damon McGovran at Healdsburg; and Mark Domenichelli in Windsor.

Senior in experience is Domenichelli, who moved over from Healdsburg. Yet he faces the same challenge — molding a group of individual players into a winning team.

“We’re a veteran team that has to learn how to play within the lines. The goal is always to finish with a winning record,” Domenichelli said.

After leading Healdsburg’s baseball team for a dozen years, Domenichelli wanted a new challenge. A physical education teacher at Healdsburg, Domenichelli lives in Windsor.

“It was tough. But I thought I’d take a shot at it,” he said. “I left behind a really good team. I’m really proud of what Damon is doing at Healdsburg.”

The Healdsburg position brought McGovran back into the Sonoma County prep baseball ranks. McGovran coached eight years at Rancho Cotate, including six as an assistant under Jeff Ogston, now leading Analy.

“I just look at it as another team and another coach. It’s another day at the yard,” McGovran said. “Our goal is to be competitive in every game we play.”

A Santa Rosa resident, McGovran helped restore the baseball program at Branson, in Marin County, where he coached three seasons. He tired of making the daily drives in traffic to coach between jobs in Santa Rosa , where he is a private baseball instructor and taxidermist.

“Healdsburg was a good opportunity to continue to advance my coaching,” he said. “It’s a great small-town program. To land a job at a local school with a great community, to me it’s an honor to take the reins from Mark.”

Also joining the Sonoma County League coaching ranks is Houghtelling. With experience assisting at the prep and college levels and leading Ygnacio Valley High (Concord) for a season, Houghtelling has an idea of what defines a successful program.

“Everyone wants to win. You’ve truly done your job if everyone can reach their potential,” he said.

Houghtelling is working on a master’s in kinesiology at Sonoma State .

At El Molino, what gives Houghtelling energy in practice daily is helping players become students of the game and learn to play well as a team.

“The effort is there,” he said. “Our goal is to try to get these guys better every day.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or