Local prep baseball players meet their field of dreams

EAST TEAM EDGES WEST TEAM, 7-6, IN PADRES’ FOURTH ANNUAL HIGH SCHOOL ALL-STAR GAME

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South County’s representation on Sunday’s West all-star team included, from left, Chula Vista coach Jim Westlund, Mater Dei Catholic coach Ed Johnson, Montgomery coach Manny Hermosillo, Montgomery players Adrian Herrera and Jose Mendoza and Montgomery assistant coach Manny Hermosillo Jr. The West team came up short, 7-6, in the fourth annual showcase game at the Padres’ Petco Park. Photo by Phillip Brents

The San Diego Padres’ Petco Park remains a field of dreams not only for Major League Baseball talent but for baseball players of every age locally.

The same cascade of “oooooohs” and “aaaaaahs” played out again during Sunday’s fourth annual Padres’ High School All-Star Night at the downtown venue.

Not all 42,445 seats were filled for the East versus West format, but the adrenaline was definitely pumping for the — in many cases, once in a lifetime — showcase opportunity.
San Diego Section Commissioner Joe Heinz addressed both teams before the game with the same message.

“Enjoy the experience and make the most of it,” he told players and coaches.

There was certainly no lack of thrills as the teams combined for 13 runs in the regulation nine-inning game, won 7-6 by the East all-stars.

From left, Eastlake’s Isaiah Lane, Bonita Vista’s Victor Castaneda and Glen Huggins, and Eastlake’s Isaiah Martinez represented the East team in Sunday’s high school all-star game. Photos by Phillip Brents

Veteran Chula Vista High School coach Jim Westlund served as head coach of the West team alongside assistant coaches Manny Hermosillo and Manny Hermosillo Jr. of Montgomery High School, Mater Dei Catholic High School skipper Ed Johnson and Madison coach Robert Lovato.

Helix Charter High School coach Cole Holland served as the East team’s head coach.

“To be around these elite athletes is a thrill,” Westlund said. “You’re going to see some of them someday wearing a Major League Baseball uniform. It’s also nice to have some of your best friends help coach the teams. You don’t get an opportunity like this every day, so I feel blessed.”

“It was awesome to coach this group,” said Holland, whose team finished 8-4 in Grossmont Hills League play as the runner-up team en route to advancing two rounds in the Open Division playoffs with a final 16-12 record. “We had a great time with the kids. We’re thankful to Bill Johnston (Padres vice president of community relations) for putting this on. It’s such a class act. I’m grateful to have this experience.”

Chula Vista High School coach Jim Westlund, left, served as the West team all-star head coach while Helix Charter coach Cole Holland served as the East team all-star head coach. Photo by Phillip Brents

Westlund had the additional honor of recently receiving the California Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame award for success on the field and efforts off the field as well.

“Only 12 San Diego coaches have been honored over the years — it started back in the 1980’s —and it is an association for all California state baseball coaches,” Westlund said. “I am lucky to be mentioned in such elite company.

“Manny Hermosillo (Montgomery), John Baumgarten (Hilltop) and Dave Gonzalez (Eastlake) are previous Hall of Fame members. It is an absolute honor to be included in that company and to have your lifetime body of work and sacrifice recognized is truly humbling.

“I am thankful to have such a supportive high school administrative team and many talented and hard-working student-athletes over the years. It is their efforts that keep me energized and excited about the future of South Bay baseball.”

Eight South County players participated in Sunday’s all-star game — two each from Montgomery, Bonita Vista and Eastlake high schools and one each from Olympian and High Tech High Chua Vista.

Eastlake’s Isaiah Lane tips his cap in recognition during pregame introductions. Photo by Phillip Brents

Junior shortstop Isaiah Lane and junior pitcher Isaiah Martinez highlighted Eastlake’s contribution to the East roster while senior pitcher Glen Huggins and junior outfielder Victor Castaneda also represented the East team.

Olympian senior first baseman Aidan Bleisch and HTH Chula Vista senior pitcher/infielder Justin Rodriguez rounded out the South Bay contingent on the East squad.

Montgomery seniors Adrian Herrera (pitcher) and Jose Mendoza (pitcher/first baseman) were both members of the West squad.

Hermosillo said it was an honor to be selected as an assistant coach for this year’s West all-star team along with his son.

“It was an honor to have been chosen by coach Westlund along with coach Lovato from Madison — very good friends and longtime coaches,” the elder Hermosillo said.

“The fact that Herrera and Mendoza were chosen, made it even more meaningful. Great kids who had great season at their positions.

“We never have a chance to meet these exceptional players because they are always opponents. They are tremendous human beings with great futures down the line.”

Hermosillo ended the season with 740 career victories. “More importantly it was a team accomplishment,” he said. “Mesa League champs and making it to Division II CIF finals. It was a tremendous experience for my players; something to build on and to get motivated for the upcoming season.”

This season ended Sunday for area ball-players who participated in the Padres’ all-star game.

But the memories will last a while.

“It’s a dream come true, just a super treat to be here,” said Huggins, who forged a 4-4 record and 3.68 earned-run average with 83 strikeouts in 64.2 innings during the 2022 season as the Barons qualified for the Division I playoffs. “Just playing in this atmosphere is definitely exciting.”

Bonita Vista High School senior Glen Huggins worked the mound for the East all-star team during the bottom of the fifth inning. He compiled a 4-4 record, 3.68 earned-run average and 83 strikeouts in 64.2 innings in 2022. Photo by Phillip Brents

Huggins got to showcase his determination and fortitude by working out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the fifth inning when he struck out Mission Hills senior Jackson Waller for the third out.

Castaneda led the Barons (4-7-1 in Metro-Mesa League play, 10-17-2 overall) with a 0.467 hitting average, 43 hits, 28 runs scored, 23 RBI, 10 doubles and seven home runs.

“It feels very satisfying cuz the players get to play on the same field where the Major Leaguers get to play,” he said. “It’s an honor to play on this field. I feel excited, I’m happy.”

“It’s an amazing opportunity to play on one of the best ballparks in the world,” Bleisch added. “I’ll definitely remember this.”

Aidan Bleisch represented Olympian High School  in this year’s prep all-star game. Bleisch, a senior, hit 0.385 with 20 RBI in helping lead the Eagles to this year’s San Diego Section Division III championship game. Photos by Phillip Brents

The Eagles (16-17-1, 2-9-1 in Metro-Mesa League play) finished runner-up to Metro Conference rival Mar Vista in the Division III final. Bleisch hit 0.385 in 28 games with 10 runs scored, 20 RBI, nine doubles and one triple.

Olympian competed in six playoff games, finishing with four wins in the double-elimination format.

“That was exciting,” he said. “We came up short (in the championship game) but it was a great experience.”

Rodriguez notched 0.544 hitting average with 27 runs scored, 25 RBI and 12 doubles to go with a 3-0 pitching record (29 strikeouts in 14 innings) for the Summit League champion Bruins (15-8 overall).

High Tech High Chula Vista senior Justin Rodriguez represented the East team in Sunday’s Padres’ High School All-Star Night. Rodriguez batted 0.544 with 25 RBI for the Summit League champion Bruins. Photo by Phillip Brents

Mendoza hit 0.316 in 28 games with 16 RBI, eight doubles and two home runs as the Aztecs captured the Metro-Mesa League championship with a 9-3 record before finishing 22-8 with a runner-up finish in the Division II playoffs.

The Aztecs appeared in five playoff games, going 3-2, with a 2-0 finals loss to Canyon Crest Academy.

Herrera posted a 7-1 record (0.875 winning percentage), 0.48 earned-run average with 81 strikeouts in 73 innings. He notched a clutch 2-0 shutout win over Del Norte to help his team advance to the championship game.

He started Sunday’s all-star game, retiring the West in order 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning.

Lane (0.388 hitting average, 27 runs scored, 18 RBI and two home runs) and Martinez (7-2 pitching record, 1.32 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 58.1 innings) both helped the Titans to Division I championship glory this season.
Lane reached base twice in Sunday’s game on a walk and base hit, scoring once.

Granite Hills High School junior Camden Sos earned recognition as the Most Valuable Player in Sunday’s fourth annual Padres high School All-Star Night with the award presented by Padres vice president of community relations Bill Johnston. Photo by Phillip Brents

Most Valuable
Granite Hills High School junior shortstop Camden Sos earned honors as the game’s Most Valuable Player with a two-run scoring triple in the seventh inning to help secure the victory for the East team.

“It was amazing to win the game and win the MVP trophy,” said Sos, an Alpine resident who has committed to continue his baseball career at UC San Diego. “There were a lot of good players here, so this means everything.”

Sos was a member of the Eagles’ top-seeded Open Division team that went on to secure a runner-up finish in the divisional playoffs and earn a berth in the ensuing Southern California regional playoffs.

The reigning Grossmont Hills League champions ended the 2022 season with a 24-7 overall record following a 5-2 setback to top-seeded (and eventual SoCal runner-up) JSerra Catholic.

“Everyone gave everything,” Sos said in retrospect. “There was no pressure on us being the No. 1 seed. We had the mentality to go out and win every game.”

Sos was a contributor to the Eagles’ success this spring with a 0.323 hitting average, 27 runs scored, 30 hits, 21 RBI, five doubles and two home runs in 27 games. He has a career 0.299 hitting average, 0.370 on-base percentage, 64 hits, 42 RBI and 40 runs scored in 62 games, including freshman, sophomore and junior seasons.

“It was an honor to be out here,” Sos said in regard to his all-star selection. “It’s a whole different experience with the stadium being enclosed and everything around you. It’s one of the best in the country, it’s amazing. But once you’re in the batter’s box, it’s like anything else.”

Sunday’s East team was chock full of East County talent, led by East team head coach Holland, his Highlanders coaching staff (Tyler Soto and Diego Reynoso), and four players: senior first baseman/pitcher Ben Haar, senior infielder/pitcher Wyatt Laub, junior first baseman/designated hitter James Whitman and sophomore Gabe Lainer (bull pen catcher).

Helix Charter all-star participants, from left, James Whitman, Gabe Lanier, Ben Haar and Wyatt Laub. Photo by Phillip Brents

Granite Hills head coach James Davis served as an assistant coach. The Eagles were represented by three players in the all-star tilt: senior catcher Cody Macias, junior pitcher Nico Tomasello and Sos.

From left, Granite Hills’ Nico Tomasello, Cody Macias and Camden Sos. Photo by Phillip Brents

Santana was represented by coach Rigo Ledesma and three players: senior pitcher Koda Alto, senior second baseman Elijah Reber and senior infielder/outfielder Ethan Wright.

Santana’s complement of players and coaches to participate in this year’s all-star game included, from left, xxx. Photo by Phillip Brernts

Other East County players included Steele Canyon junior catcher/first baseman/outfielder Tommy Molina and Cougar senior pitcher/outfielder Gabe Diaz (injured, did not play), Grossmont junior outfielder/pitcher River Diaz De Leon and Christian High School junior pitcher Vaughn Major.

Molina, Wright, Haar, Laub and Diaz De Leon all earned first team all-Grossmont Hills League honors while Laub was named the league’s pitcher of the year.

Macias, Sos, Whitman, Reber and Diaz were among the league’s all-league second team selections while Alto and Tomasello were honorable mention picks.

“We had good pitching on both teams, the offense just had to catch up to get it going.” Holland said. “I thought we did a good job of that.”

Macias hit 0.307 with 12 RBI and six doubles during the 2022 season while Tomasello finished 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 48.2 innings.

Macias had one RBI in Sunday’s game while Tomasello pitched 1.2 innings.

Wright batted 0.432 in 27 games with 26 runs scored, 25 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He had a productive night on Sunday with a single, two stolen bases and one run scored.

Major, who has a career 1.64 ERA with 206 strikeouts in 149.1 innings with the Patriots (22-9 this season), recorded one RBI at the plate and put down the West in order in the bottom of the ninth inning, striking out the final batter to cap Sunday’s festivities.

Kick save
Christian High School junior Vaughn Major’s high kick worked to his advantage as he retired the side in the bottom of the ninth inning to preserve the East team’s 7-6 victory. Major fanned 94 batters in 71 innings this season. Photo by Phillip Brents

Haar pitched 1.1 innings on Sunday, helping the East team get out of a jam in the bottom of the seventh inning after narrowing the score to 7-4.

“It’s amazing to be among these premier players here, a once in a lifetime experience,” said Haar, who led the Highlanders with a 0.368 hitting average in 25 games, topping the team with 26 runs scored, 28 hits, 36 RBI and eight home runs.

Haar will continue his baseball career at the University of San Diego, which posted a 37-20 record this spring, won the West Coast Conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA Corvallis Regional.

“We battled,” Haar said of the Scotties’ 2022 season. “At one point we were tied for 17th in Division I and came back to earn the eighth seed in the Open Division. It was a great senior season to be with my boys.”

Haar also served time on the mound with a 3-3 record, 3.00 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 51.1 innings.

Ben Haar was a key performer both on the mound and at the plate this season for the Highlanders. Photos by Phillip Brents

Whitman hit 0.325 with 20 RBI and five home runs this season while Laub batted 0.291 with 14 RBI while posting a 7-1 record and two saves on the hill with a 2.65 earned-run average and 36 strikeouts in 37 innings.

Granite Hills’ Nico Tomasello doubled as the Eagles quarterback during the football season. Photo by Phillip Brents

Whitman had a RBI single in Sunday’s game while Laub started on the hill for the West with one scoreless inning.

Reber hit 0.347 with 21 runs scored, 15 RBI and 11 stolen bases while Alto was 7-3 on the mound with two saves and a 2.47 ERA.

Diaz De Leon hit 0.305 in 36 games with 32 runs scored, 28 RBI and eight home runs.

Going, going, gone!
St. Augustine High School junior M.J. Sweeney, son of Padres pregame color analyst Mark Sweeney, blasted the big hit in Sunday’s high school all-star game at Petco Park — a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning that narrowed the score to 7-6. Sweeney stood out on the field in more ways than one at 6 feet, 7 seven inches tall and 245 pounds. Photos by Phillip Brents

St. Augustine junior M.J. Sweeney (6-7, 245) swung the big stick for the West team with a two-run home run over the 340-foot sign in right field in the bottom of the eighth inning to make the final score 7-6. Sweeney tied the game on an infield single in the bottom of the second inning.

Del Norte senior D.J. Cardinal had two RBI for the West team.

Madison High School senior Maddux Haley won the pregame home run derby with 34 points. Photo by Phillip Brents

Long ball
Madison senior infielder Maddox Haley (West team) won the pregame home run hitting contest in a final head-to-head duel against Poway senior outfielder/pitcher Nick Cook (East team).

Each team had four players selected with the top two point-getters from the first round squaring off in the final.

Haley chalked up 34 points to Cook’s 24 points to win this year’s derby.
Grossmont’s Diaz De Leon and Helix’s Whitman both participated on the four-man East roster.

Cook had a double and RBI in the regulation contest.

This year’s all-star game roster and home run derby participants were chosen by the section’s baseball advisory committee.

East squad home run derby contestants, from left, Rancho Bernardo’s Kevin Takeuchi, Poway’s Nick Cook, Grossmont’s River Diaz De Leon and Helix Charter’s James Whitmen. Photo by Phillip Brents
Helix’s James Whitman takes a cut during the pregame home run derby competition. Photo by Phillip Brents
River Diaz De Leon represented the Grossmont Foothillers in the pregame home run derby. Photo by Phillip Brents

 

 

SDSU Aztec hardballers end season on disappointing 18-38 note but reap conference honors

The San Diego State University baseball team ended its season not in the College World Series but with a rather uncharacteristic 18-38 record that included a 10-20 showing in Mountain West Conference play and an altogether dismal 8-25 home record.

But the Aztecs still had their moments.

The 2022 SDSU squad earned five postseason honors as senior Troy Melton was named the conference’s Co-Pitcher of the Year and outfielder Irvin Weems shared the conference’s Freshman of the Year honors.

Turlock’s Cole Carrigg joined Anaheim’s Melton on the Mountain West First Team while Clovis’ T.J. Fondtain earned MW Second Team honors as a pitcher.

Melton, who garnered the Aztecs’ seventh Pitcher of the Year accolades since the conference’s formation in 2000, finished the season with a 5-2 record, 2.07 earned-run average and 67 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. He posted four of his five wins in conference play, leading the conference with a 2.40 ERA while ranking second in strikeouts (62), third in opposing batting average (0.246) and fourth in innings pitched (56.1).

Weems, a Las Vegas native, becomes SDSU’s third freshman of the year honoree. He started 40 of 46 games in the outfield, ranked fourth on the team with a 0.293 hitting average, third in runs scored, fourth with 71 RBI while eight doubles and five home runs. He stole 17 bases in 21 attempts (second on the team).

Carrigg, who started 53 of 54 games, led the Aztecs with a 0.388 hitting average while topping the team with 83 hits, 15 doubles and 40 RBI.

Fondtain ranked second on the team with a 0.339 hitting average while starting 25 of 28 games with eight doubles, two home runs and 11 RBI.

Southern exposure
Sophomore catcher Poncho Ruiz (Mater Dei Catholic), junior first baseman Brian Leonhardt (Eastlake) and sophomore pitcher Ricky Tibbett (Eastlake) represented South County on this year’s SDSU team.

Ruiz ranked third on the team with a 0.309 hitting average. He notched a team-high 43 runs scored, 14 doubles, one triple, five home runs and 33 RBI.

Leonhardt posted a 0.246 hitting average while scoring 26 runs, adding seven doubles, five home runs and 34 RBI to his resume. He also appeared in four games on the mound with a 0-2 win-loss record, 10.57 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

Tibbett made 22 appearances on the mound with a 1-1 record and one save, 5.89 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 36.2 innings.

Locals only
The Aztecs featured 11 San Diego County homegrown products in their lineup this season.
Santana High School alumnus Tyler Glowacki, Granite Hills High School graduate Trevor Hazelhurst and Valhalla alum Joseph Ingrassia all suited up for SDSU this season while representing East County.

Glowacki, a freshman outfielder, appeared in 41 of the team’s 56 games, starting 36 times. He logged 130 at-bats with a 0.254 hitting average, 33 hits, 13 runs scored, five doubles and 12 RBI. He recorded 64 put-outs and a 0.956 fielding percentage.

Hazelhurst, a redshirt sophomore outfielder from Grossmont College, appeared in 21 games, starting nine, while recording a 0.149 hitting average in 47 at-bats with eight runs scored, two home runs and four RBI. He logged a 0.982 fielding percentage.

Ingrassia, a sophomore pitcher, appeared in five games with a 0-0 win-loss record, 8.53 earned-run average and eight strikeouts in 6.1 innings.

Junior catcher Deron Johnson (Poway) appeared in 31 games with 13 starts, two home runs and five RBI while freshman catcher Evan Sipe (San Marcos) appeared in seven games with a 0.200 hitting average.

Sophomore outfielder Charlie Rhee and sophomore infielder Fisher Pyatt are both St. Augustine grads. Rhee appeared in 22 games with 10 starts, a 0.129 hitting average two runs scored and three RBI while Pyatt was hitless in two games.

MW championship
SDSU hosted the conference championship tournament May 26-29 at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Four teams participated: No. 4-seeded Air Force Academy, No. 3-seeded San Jose State University, No. 2-seeded Nevada-Reno and top-seeded University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
In double-header action on May 26, San Jose State upset Nevada, 2-1, while Air Force upset UNLV, 5-2.

Nevada eliminated UNLV, 7-3, while Air Force defeated San Jose State, 7-3, in two games on May 27. In two games on May 28, San Jose State eliminated Nevada, 15-6, while Air Force won the championship with an 8-3 win over San Jose State.

The conference championship was the first for the Falcons and the program’s first NCAA postseason appearance since 1969.

Local prep baseball players meet their field of dreams