Don Lugo senior Albert Rizo is one of those diamonds in the rough. He just started pitching at the end of his junior year and the Conquistadores had a lot of seniors in the other positions so it wasn’t until this year that he started seeing much playing time at the varsity level.
But NCAA Division II Cal State Los Angeles sees his potential and Rizo has decided that’s the next step for him.
He was also considering several community colleges but like the opportunity to play baseball for the Eagles will pursuing a degree in criminal justice.
“I like the chance to go there from both an athletic and academic standpoint,” he said. “I think I can really develop there.”
Don Lugo coach Jeff Abel said his player can throw 88 mph and that is with little experience and work on the mechanics of the position.
Abel admitted a red-shirt might be in the players’ best interest so he can develop at that position but sees great potential.
“His best years are definitely ahead of him. He needs some confidence and some experience working at that position and he can be very good. We just started working with him at the end of last year and he has already come a long way.”
Rizo was 3-0 with an 0.61 ERA in 23 innings with 24 strikeouts in helping the Conquistadores to a 23-4 record and Mt. Baldy League championship,.
The Mt. Baldy League champion Don Lugo baseball team has drawn the No. 1 seed for the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs which begin on Tuesday. But first-year head coach Jeff Abel is a bit concerned about his Conquistadores (23-3) who play on Thursday against thee winner of a wild card game between Riverside Patriot (16-11) and Jurupa Hills (17-9).
There were a couple of injuries in Thursday’s regular season finale against Colony. Senior pitcher-outfielder Benny Aguilera sustained an ankle injury going after a foul ball and is now on crutches.
Abel is hoping a week is enough time to at least get him healthy enough he can be in the lineup in the outfield or as a designated hitter but that is probably a stretch since he’s still on crutches. Abel doesn’t think he’s be able to pitch for at least a couple of weeks.
Losing Aguilera would be a major blow. Don Lugo graduated several players from last year’s team and Aguilera is the most experienced of those coming back.
There were a couple of less serious injuries. Junior outfielder Josh Ibarra strained a quad but remained in the game. Senior Albert Rizo injured his hand,. He came out of that game but Abel said he seemed better today.
The Don Lugo baseball team is off to a 12-0 start that has also resulted in a No. 1 ranking in Division 4.
The Conquistadors are taking the field with a new look. There have been wholesale changes in personnel as just one starter returns. But longtime coach Joe Marcos stepped down and the team is now being headed by his former top assistant in Jeff Abel.
Abel stops short of calling this team an overachieving team however.
“We had some young players that I knew had potential but I wouldn’t say we’re overachieving,” Abel said. “Maybe some guys have developed a little faster than we thought they would.”
The Conquistadors have won two tournaments that they have hosted – one a preseason tournament and one a spring break tournament. Among the more notable wins were one over Glendora and another over formidable small school power Woodcrest Christian.
Abel has gotten stellar performances from several players including senior outfielder-pitcher Benny Aguilera, the only returning starter from last year’s squad.
Among the other big contributors are junior Josh Ibarra, a backup last year, and junior pitcher-third baseman Nolan Fernandez, who came up from the junior varsity at the end of last season.
Abel also singled out the contributions of shortstop Albert Luevano, left fielder Khoury Bethley and pitcher Joshua Torres – all sophomores.
“The best thing about this team is these kids act like a family and they get along well on and off the field,” Abel said. “That’s one thing that has helped get us where we are. We have a long way to go but it’s definitely a good start.”
Next up for Don Lugo is a Mt. Baldy League game against Montclair (8-5, 1-2) on Wednesday.
Here is the schedule for the Don Lugo Easter Tournament which begins next week. Will update with scores and next day’s schedule as the tournament progresses.
at Don Lugo
St. Laurence, Ill. vs. Desert Christian, 9:30 a.m.
Paul VI vs. Paramount, Va., 12:30 p.m.
Linfield Christian vs. Don Lugo, 3:30 p.m.
Hesperia at Diamond Bar, 3:30 p.m.
Capistrano Valley Chr. at Walnut, 3:30 p.m.
Maranatha at Pomona, 3:30 p.m.
Southlands Christian at San Dimas, 3:30 p.m.
at Don Lugo
Arroy Grande vs. Ridgecrest Burroughs, 12:30 p.m.
Here is the Mt. Baldy selections as made by the coaches.
Most Valuable Players – Andrew Matus, Don Lugo, Frank Donaldson, Don Lugo
David Castaneda, Chaffey, Jr.
Damien Cauble, Ontario, Jr.
Noah Ehrhardt, Chaffey, Sr.
Adrian Garcia, Montclair, Sr.
Ryan Goff, Chino, Sr.
Danny Gomez, Montclair, Jr.
Matt Goytia, Don Lugo, Jr.
Kyle Guillement, Chino, Jr.
Andrew Martinez, Don Lugo, Sr.
Michael Martinez, Colony, Sr.
Daniel Perez, Don Lugo, Sr.
Chase Price, Don Lugo, Jr,.
Joshua Thorton, Chino, Jr.
Patrick Vizcaino, Don Lugo, Jr.