Braced by South County talent, Christian Patriots take aim at another CIF championship run

South County native Ryan De Los Reyes is congratulated by teammate Hunter Kaul as he crossed the plate in the seventh inning. Photo by Phillip Brents

California District 42 Little League has gained notoriety in the past decade-plus as producing elite talent at the youth level while sending teams deep into the all-star playoffs at all levels, including trips to the Little League World Series.

This year’s Christian High School baseball team is making ample use of that talent with six players primarily from the Eastlake/Bonita area on the roster. Among them are juniors Landon Reid, Steven McDonald and Peter Zacharzuk and seniors senior Nate Cena and Ryan De Los Reyes.

They’ve already helped the private El Cajon school achieve some notoriety of its own.
The Patriots won the San Diego Section Division III championship in 2021 and followed that up by advancing four rounds into the Division II playoffs in 2022.
The Patriots could be building toward another potential CIF championship season based their early season 4-1 start.

“We’re kind of where we hoped to be at this point of the season,” veteran Christian coach Mike Mitchell said following Monday’s 4-2 non-league victory at Bonita Vista. “We’ve had players step up to help us when we’ve needed it.”

The Patriots erased an early 2-1 deficit with a run in the top of the fifth inning and pushed across two runs in the top of the seventh inning to snap a 2-2 tie in Monday’s matchup.
Junior Xavier Farnum scored twice to lead the visitors while sophomore Luke Bailey drove in one run and scored once. De Los Reyes also scored once.

Zarcharzuk, whose team nickname is “The Vulture,” relieved junior Brody Gundert and picked up his third win without a loss while Bailey recorded his fourth save of the young season.

Seniors Victor Castaneda and Noah Vargas each drove in one run for Bonita Vista. The Barons (1-3) used two pitchers: senior Michael Moreno (five hits, two runs, six strikeouts in six innings) and sophomore Michael Maywood (two runs, three hits, two strikeouts in one inning).

Impact performers, from left, Peter Zacharzuk, Luke Bailey and Vaughn Major. Photo by Phillip Brentrs

The Patriots finished 27-5 in 2021, defeating 10th-seeded San Dieguito Academy, 7-4, to grab the Division III section title before advancing two games deep into the regional playoffs. Included was an 11-1 quarter-final round win over Wildomar Elsinore.

Christian, the top seed for the section playoffs, finished 12-0 to win the City League championship.

The Patriots finished 22-9 in 2022 with a 9-3 record in second place in the Eastern League standings. Christian, seeded eighth, won its opening two games in the Division II playoffs – 7-4 over ninth-seeded Santa Fe Christian and 3-0 over top-seeded Francis Parker but lost its next two games (4-2 to fourth-seeded Canyon Crest Academy and a 7-3 rematch against Francis Parker) to drop out of championship contention in the double-elimination playoffs.

Canyon Crest went on to win the Division II title with a 2-0 victory against second-seeded Montgomery.

The Pats return about half of their lineup from their Division III championship season and a lion’s share from last year’s highly successful team. This year’s group is being joined by three high-profile transfers who are being recruited by Division I schools that will make the 2023 Christian edition even stronger.

“I don’t see too many weaknesses in our lineup,” senior Vaughn Major said. “It’s only going to get stronger when we get those three players back. I don’t think our opponents expected us to be good enough to have a chance to win a CIF championship.”

“We have a well-rounded pitching staff,” Luke Bailey interjected. “We have four pitchers now and we’re going to add to that. I think we all have the ability to hit the ball.”

“I see my job as just to help the team,” Zacharzuk said, “I want to help us keep rolling.
“I get put in scenarios that are high difficulty (as a closer) and it’s up to me to be able to work through the pressure.”

Sweetwater Valley Little League alumnus Peter Zacharzuk sports a 3-0 record with a 1.91 earned-run average in the early season for Christian High School. Photo by Phillip Brents

Batter up
The opening month of the season is jammed with non-league and tournament games.
Christian edged the host Chula Vista Spartans, 1-0, in eight innings to jump-start the season on March 2 and tacked on an 8-6 win at San Marcos on March 6. The Patriots suffered their first loss of the season, 8-3 to visiting St. Augustine, on March 7, but bounced back with a 5-1 win against visiting Francis Parker on March 9.

Junior Ashton McCurty scored the lone run in the win over Chula Vista while collecting two of the team’s four hits in the game, including a game-winning home run.

Zacharzuk and Farnum (double) each had two hits. McCurty struck out seven batters in five innings on the hill while Zacharzuk picked up the win.

Farnum picked up five RBI in the win over San Marcos while freshman Benji Molina had three hits. Zacharzuk picked up the win by allowing two hits and two earned runs in 4.1 innings.

Senior Shane Bailey drove in two runs in the loss to St. Augustine while Cena had to RBI in the win over Francis Parker.

McCurty recorded the win over Parker with nine strikeouts while allowing four hits in six innings.

The top five hitting leaders last year were all underclassmen and all return this season.
Shane Bailey topped the team with a 0.407 hitting average, 44 hits, 32 runs and 15 doubles while Major followed with a 0.360 average, 36 hits and 14 RBI. Farnum led the team with 22 RBI. Hunter Kaul ranked third on the team with a 0.343 hitting average and second with 20 RBI.

Bonita Vista’s Michael Moreno started on the mnound. Photo by Phillip Brenrts

Bailey was 9-1 on the mound with an imposing 1.31 earned-run average while McCurty was 7-1 with a 1.54 ERA. Major was 5-4 with a 1.97 ERA and team-leading 94 strikeouts in 71 innings. McCurty logged 58 strikeouts in 50 innings while Bailey had 56 K’s in 58.2 innings.
Bailey and McCarty tied for the team lead with three home runs.

Through five games this season, Farnum paced the team with 0.462 hitting average while Zacharzuk followed with a 0.429 average. Major was batting 0.357. Farnum led with group with five RBI and four doubles.

Zacharzuk carried a 3-0 record and 1.91 earned-run average while Luke Bailey had a 1.75 ERA. McCurty (1-0, 0.00 ERA) had logged 16 strikeouts in 11 innings.

The Patriots face the Scripps Ranch Falcons in a three-game series to face off Eastern League play on April 10. League play continues through May 11 in advance of the section playoffs.

Clairemont, La Jolla, Coronado and Scripps Ranch comprise Christian’s league competition this spring.

Scripps Ranch had matched the Patriots with a 4-1 record while both La Jolla and Coronado were off to 4-2 starts. Clairemont was 1-5 through Monday.


TOP BASEBALL RECORDS: Eastlake 6-0, Montgomery 5-0, Ocean View Christian Academy 3-0, Otay Ranch 3-2, San Ysidro 4-4, High Tech High Chula Vista 2-2, Mater Dei Catholic 3-4, Hilltop 2-3, Southwest 2-4, Mar Vista 2-5, Chula Vista 2-5

TOP SOFTBALL RECORDS: Chula Vista 6-0-1, Montgomery 4-2, Mater Dei Catholic 4-2, Bonita Vista 4-2-1, Otay Ranch 5-3, Castle Park 4-3, Bayfront Charter 3-2, Eastlake 2-2-1, Mar Vista 2-3, Olympian 3-5, Hilltop 3-7-1