Mustangs had potential for more in shortened 2020 season

Otay Ranch's Omar Lopez will continue his baseball career at Azusa Pacific University.

This year’s Otay Ranch High School baseball team included eight seniors on its roster, among them two players who participated in the Little League World Series for Sweetwater Valley Little League: Levi Mendez and Isaac Artalejo.

Other seniors on the team included catcher Hector Millan, pitcher-first baseman Christopher Gulley, infielder Omar Lopez, pitcher-outfielder Joseph Peña, catcher-third baseman Emmanuel Perez and catcher-third baseman Diego Luna.

The Mustangs started the 2020 spring season with a lot of promise after dropping five close contests on the field by two runs or less, including two one-run decisions.

The team will have much incentive to better those results next spring.

In the meantime, seniors are in the process of finding their way to the next level. Lopez will continue his baseball career at Azusa Pacific University.

Otay Ranch head coach Raul Martinez indicated the Mustangs appear to be stocked with developing talent at the high school level.

Besides Mendez and Artalejo, who helped the Sweetwater Sluggers to a third-place finish in the United States division at the 2015 Little League World Series, sophomores Daniel Leon and Julian Padilla were part of the Park View Little League team that followed the road to South Williamsport the following year.

Juniors Ali Camarillo and Santiago Garcia could be next in line as team leaders on the 2021 Mustang squad.

Camarillo has already committed to attend CSU Northridge. He is working hard and staying safe while preparing for next season.

Camarillo said he is looking forward to playing Division I baseball at Northridge for coach Dave Serrano and competing in the Big West Conference.

“Proud to say I verbally committed to Cal State University-Northridge for the opportunity to fulfill one of my dreams,” Camarillo said. “Time to grind even harder.”

Garcia showed promise by hitting .245 with 13 hits, 11 runs scored and four RBI as a freshman.

“Santiago Garcia has been amazing with a bat — lots of power for his size,” the Otay Ranch coach said.

The Mustangs finished 14-17-1 during the 2019 season, 5-7 in league play, en route to going three rounds deep into the San Diego Section Division II playoffs.

A highlight of that season was defeating Mesa League rival Olympian, 4-0, in a league game played at Petco Park and advancing to the finals of the annual San Diego Lions Tournament.

Otay Ranch finished 19-11 during the 2018 season, 7-5 in league play, while also advancing three rounds deep into the CIF playoffs.

Otay Ranch High School alumnus Randy Abshier got a chance to pitch in the 2018 San Diego Section All-Star Game.

Alumni report
Several former Mustangs have already made the jump to the next level.

Randy Abshier, a 2018 ORHS graduate, struck out 131 batters in 86.2 innings of work over two seasons as a Mustang. He capped his senior year by participating in the San Diego Section All-Star Game at Petco Park.

He was selected to the USA Baseball 17U National Team Development Program in 2016.

Abshier has continued his baseball career at the University of Arizona. He appeared in 17 games as a true freshman in 2019. He went 1-0 with one save and a 4.50 ERA to record the third-best mark among regular relievers o the team. He struck out 13 batters in 20 innings of work.

Otay Ranch High School 2018 graduate Randy Abshier is now in his second year pitching for the University of Arizona. Photo by Phillip Brents

During the ensuing summer, he played for the Ma-Su Miners in the Alaska Baseball League and earned a starting pitching assignment in the Alaska League All-Star Game.

At the end of the summer he earned first team all-league honors after logging time in 10 games (eight starts) with a 3-1 record, 1.52 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 47.1 innings. He finished second in the league in ERA, tied for third in wins and fourth in strikeouts.

He made three relief appearances with three strikeouts in 1.1 innings of work during the shortened 2020 season.

Abshier said he chose to play for the Wildcats to “to be the best baseball player possible.”

From left, Otay Ranch’s Alex Kuisel, Adrian Tovalin and Eduardo Alvarez are pictured following a 2013 San Diego Lions tournament game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Other alums who have extended their careers beyond the high school level include Adrian and Osvaldo Tovalin, Eduardo Alvarez, Abraham Valdez and Adrian Orozco.

Adrian Tovalin, a first team all-league selection as a junior and senior with the Mustangs, attended Azusa Pacific and was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 16th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball amateur draft. He played two years in the minor leagues before playing professionally in the Mexican League last year.

Tovalin hit .512 his junior year to help Otay Ranch win a Mesa League co-championship. As the team captain his senior year he posted a .527 batting average.

The Mustangs finished 22-9 in 2013, 7-3 in league, in sharing the league title with Hilltop. Otay Ranch finished 21-10 in 2014, 5-3 in league.

Adrian Tovalin douses the fire in a relief appearance in a 2013 San Diego Lions tournament game. Photo by Phillip Brents

Tovalin started in all 53 games in which he appeared as a freshman at Azusa Pacific, posting a .290 batting average with 41 RBI (third on the team), eight doubles and eight home runs (third on the team), He recorded 12 multi-hit games.

He started all 50 games for the Cougars as a sophomore in 2016, reaping second team All-PacWest and all-region honors. Named the Golden Glove winner at third base in the region, he recorded 21 multi-hit games while leading the team with a .365 hitting average, 49 RBI, 22 home runs and .477 on-base percentage. He led the conference in home runs and slugging percentage.

He appeared in the conference top-10 in almost every category.

As a junior in 2017, his last year with the Cougars, he appeared in 51 games with a .352 hitting average, 21 home runs and 75 RBI.

Tovalin played for two teams his first year as a professional. He appeared in 18 games for the Greeneville Astros in the Appalachian League (rookie level) in 2017, hitting .262 with four home runs and 11 RBI, before joining the Tri-City ValleyCats in the New York-Penn League (A level) where he hit .197 with five home runs, 23 RBI and scored 19 runs.

Tovalin was assigned to the Quad Cities River Bandits in the Midwest League in 2018 and played a full season of A-level baseball, recording a .215 hitting average with 21 runs scored, eight doubles, two triples, three home runs and 21 RBI.

He appeared in 69 games for the Olmecas de Tabasco in 2019 with a .173 hitting average, seven home runs and 18 RBI.

Osvaldo Tovalin also received a scholarship to Azusa Pacific and has put up even bigger numbers there than his older brother.

Osvaldo Tovalin recorded a career .390 hitting average in three years at Otay Ranch with 10 home runs and 66 RBI.

As a true freshman at APU, Osvaldo earned recognition on the All-PacWest First Team after leading the team with 22 multiple-hit games, batting .304 with 49 RBI (tied for the team lead), 63 hits (second on the team), nine doubles and eight home runs in 52 game starts at third base.

Tovalin completed his sophomore season in 2019 while being named to the All-America First Team, All-West Region First Team and All-PacWest First Team. He started all 55 games in which he played, registering 91 hits (first on the team), .391 hitting average, 17 doubles and 19 home runs.

In a playoff game against Cal Poly Pomona, the former Mustang collected four hits, eight RBI, three home runs and scored four runs.

He played in every single inning of the Cougars’ season. He opened the season with a 19-game hitting streak while recording 25 multi-hit games.

He tied the conference single-season record with 91 hits.

Both Adrian and Osvaldo’s father Humberto played professional baseball in Mexico.

Otay Ranch High School’s 2013 baseball team finished as Mesa League co-champions with Hilltop as both teams posted 7-3 league records. The Mustangs went on to amass a 22-9 record to cap the season. Photo by Phillip Brents

Alvarez, Adrian Tovalin’s classmate and fellow 2014 ORHS grad, hit .495 as a sophomore and earned pitcher of the year in his senior year. He went on to play four seasons of professional baseball in Mexico and was later offered a contract by the Los Angeles Dodgers, drawing a spring training assignment.

Alvarez played two seasons for the Leones de Yucatan and two seasons for the Algononeros Union Laguna.

Martinez said Valdez is “a great story of desire and dedication.”

“He was only a part-time catcher during his years at Otay Ranch and inspired to be a starting catcher,” Martinez said. “He attended Grossmont College and was red-shirted. The following year he transferred to Southwestern College and wasn’t the starter but through hard work he won the position and excelled to the point where the BYU offered him a scholarship.

“This would’ve been his senior year at BYU.”

Valdez appeared in 71 career games over two seasons at Southwestern College, batting .341 with 77 hits, 33 RBI and 28 walks. He led the team with a .354 average in 2018 with just eight strikeouts in 190 plate appearances.

He appeared in 35 career games at BYU over two seasons (2019-20) with a composite .253 hitting average, .349 on-base percentage, six doubles, one home run and 14 RBI.

Valdez wasn’t the only long-term success story to come out of The Ranch.

“Adrian Orozco is another player who never pitched for us at Otay Ranch due to injuries but once in college was able to pitch for SDSU, USD, and now is a pitching coach at Point Loma Nazarene,” Martinez said.