2011 STAR-NEWS ALL-AREA BASEBALL
Player of the Year: KJ Edson, Arcadia, Sr.
Coach of the Year: Wayne Ellis, Pasadena Poly, 24th season
Pitcher: Jordan Kutzer, Pasadena Poly, Sr.
Pitcher: Bowdien Derby, La Salle, Jr.
Infielder: Hunter Merryman, Pasadena Poly, Sr.
Infielder: Corey Copping, Temple City, Jr.
Infielder: Nick Bueno, Monrovia, Sr.
Infielder: Mark Jebbia, Maranatha, Sr.
Outfielder: Chris Rucker, Pasadena, Sr.
Outfielder: Brendan Campbell, Arcadia, Jr.
Outfielder: Frankie Wright, Alhambra, Sr.
Catcher: David Hubinger, St. Francis, Sr.
Utility: Matt Saeta, Pasadena Poly, Sr.
Pitcher: Brian Holman, Pasadena Poly, Sr.
Pitcher: Erik Trask, Arcadia, Jr.
Infielder: Juan Morales, Alhambra, Jr.
Infielder: David Olmedo-Barrera, St. Francis, Jr.
Infielder: Dylan Trimarchi, South Pasadena, Jr.
Infielder: Tyler Dominguez, Arcadia, Sr.
Outfielder: Juan Crespo, Alhambra, Jr.
Outfielder: Chris Williams, La Salle, Jr.
Outfielder: George Papavasiliou, Arcadia, Sr.
Catcher: Jonah Jarrard, Temple City, Jr.
Utility: Julian Jarrard, Temple City, Sr.
CLICK ON THREAD TO READ PLAYER AND COACH OF THE YEAR STORIES
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: KJ Edson, Arcadia, Sr.
By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
There were a couple much-more heralded pitchers that came before him at Arcadia High School, including Garrett Tuck and Bryce Rutherford.
But in only his second varsity season and first as the ace, KJ Edson elevated the Apaches baseball program like no one else had done in nearly 25 years.
Edson put Arcadia back on the Southland baseball map, leading the Apaches to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs, the school’s deepest run since going equally as far in 1987.
For his outstanding season, Edson has been named 2011 Star-News baseball Player of the Year.
Before the season started, Edson went through a roller coaster of emotions, what with him taking the lead role on the mound.
“At first I was anxious and worried about how I’d do this year,” he said, “seeing as I had a good junior year and figured I had to do better my senior year. I calmed down, went out there and just had fun.”
Edson grew tired, even frustrated, with people bringing up talk about how the Apaches hadn’t gone past the first round in four consecutive seasons.
“Personally I was getting tired of everybody saying we were not going to do anything this year,” he said. “I was tired of hearing that. I wanted to get past that first round and prove to everybody that didn’t believe in us wrong.”
Edson, a first-team All-CIF-Southern Section selection, went 12-2 with a 1.07 ERA in 17 appearances, including 15 starts. He pitched eight complete games, four shutouts and struck out 89 in 98 1/3 innings. Edson started every playoff game for the Apaches (26-4), who for the second consecutive season finished the Pacific League with an unblemished record after pounding rival Crescenta Valley in the season finale.
That he started every playoff game came as a surprise to some, but Edson wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Coach would ask what I wanted to do,” Edson said. “He would say, `I wanna go with you if you’re OK.’ It was pretty much my decision if I wanted to pitch, and I did. The way I throw (sidearm) is different than anybody else. My arm was never really sore or tired. Me being competitive, I wanted to pitch every game that I could.”
He was brilliant against Pacifica in the quarterfinals, giving up just two hits and one earned run in 4 2/3 innings. It was all he was available for after reaching his 10-inning allotment for that week. He came back in the semifinals and flirted with a perfect game before getting knocked out of the game, literally, after a line drive to the right knee sent him to the ground. Arcadia’s dream season was over, but it was a dream of a season nonetheless, and leading them well into June was Edson’s relentless effort, sheer determination and durability.
Edson’s rise to success had a humble beginning long before he reached the varsity rotation as a junior.
“I would say he was an average kid as a freshman, nothing extraordinary about him,” Arcadia coach Nick Lemas. “He was a decent player. But then he made a change and bought into what we were doing, and the rest is history.”
That change came in his delivery his sophomore season when Edson mastered sidearm pitching.
“I had some friends who had done it with a couple of their players,” Lemas said. “I played with a kid in college who was a sidearm player. It was effective, and watching the way Edson threw the ball it was natural. He was really loose, lanky and had all the things you’d want from somebody throwing from that angle. He looked like someone we could do it to, but we tried it with other kids and no one bought into it. KJ did. He believed in himself and accomplished some pretty great things because he worked hard, was dedicated and believed in himself.”
Edson, the Pacific League’s Most Valuable Player, did everything he could to prepare himself to lead Arcadia as a team captain.
“Running kept me in a lot better shape,” the University of La Verne-bound Edson said. “This year I was a lot more determined. I didn’t have Garrett (Tuck) to rely on. I thought, `I have to do this.’ After every (start) I’d run four or five miles and think of what I needed to do to win.”
And win he did.
Leading the Star-News All-Area first-team pitching staff are Pasadena Poly senior Jordan Kutzer and La Salle junior Bowdien Derby.
Kutzer, headed to Stanford, went 6-1 with one save in 14 appearances to earn first-team All-CIF honors in Division 6. He pitched three complete games and recorded two shutouts and finished with a 2.22 ERA and 65 strikeouts, leading the Panthers to a state-record 16th consecutive (Prep) league title and the school’s first CIF-Southern Section Division 6 championship.
In the final, Kutzer flirted with a no-hitter and helped his cause with an RBI double in a 10-0 victory over Oxford Academy. Kutzer batted .453 with six homers, 29 RBIs and eight doubles to lead a potent Panthers lineup.
Derby dazzled in the season finale against Palm Desert in the second round of the Division 4 playoffs, clocking at 91 mph in front of pro and college scouts. But he was impressive all season long, going 10-1 in 15 appearances with seven complete games, five shutouts and 101 strikeouts and a 0.94 ERA.
That Derby prefers to play shortstop is a testament to his talent. He batted .435 with three home runs, 19 RBIs and 12 doubles. He also earned first-team All-CIF honors in Division 4.
The four All-Area first-team infielders are Pasadena Poly’s Hunter Merryman, Temple City’s Corey Copping, Monrovia’s Nick Bueno and Maranatha’s Mark Jebbia.
Merryman, who is Middlebury College-bound, was one of the most dominant hitters in the San Gabriel Valley. He batted .512 with 44 hits, 42 RBIs, 15 doubles and nine home runs. Merryman’s prowess is not limited to baseball, having earned first-team All-CIF honors in three sports this past school year.
Copping, a junior, earned the Rio Hondo League’s Most Valuable Player award after going 4-2 with a 0.97 ERA and 59 strikeouts for league champion Temple City, which dethroned five-time defending champ Monrovia. Copping, a first-team All-CIF selection in Division 4, also was clutch at the plate, batting .347 with two home runs, 19 RBIs and six doubles.
Bueno, a senior headed to Cal Lutheran, once again proved to be a stout defensive stopper at shortstop. He batted .411 with 37 hits and 10 RBIs and had a .455 on-base percentage with 25 stolen bases. He earned first-team All-CIF honors in Division 4.
Jebbia, a senior, led the Minutemen to the quarterfinals of the Division 5 playoffs. He batted .442 with 34 hits, 20 RBIs, five doubles, three triples and a home run. He also recorded 16 stolen bases. Jebbia will play at NAIA Division III Westmont College.
The All-Area first-team outfielders include Pasadena’s Chris Rucker, Arcadia’s Brendan Campbell and Alhambra’s Frankie Wright.
Rucker helped the Bulldogs record the most victories (17) in school history. The four-year letterman batted .340 in league and made first-team All-Pacific League.
Campbell, a junior in his first season with the Apaches after transferring from Gabrielino, proved to be an integral part of Lemas’ lineup. He batted .375 with 27 hits, 16 RBIs and three doubles. Campbell earned first-team All-Pacific League honors.
Wright, a senior, was a standout all over the field. He batted .421 with 32 hits, 17 RBIs, nine doubles and two home runs. He was lights-out on the mound, going 10-2 in 14 appearances with two saves, six complete games, five shutouts and 64 strikeouts with a .057 ERA. He helped the Moors to their seventh consecutive Almont League title.
For the second consecutive season, St. Francis senior David Hubinger is the All-Area first-team catcher. The Pepperdine-bound Hubinger, a two-time first-team All-Mission League selection, hit .387 with 24 RBIs and eight doubles.
Pasadena Poly’s Matt Saeta earned the utility spot to round out the team. He was limited on the mound because of injury, but proved more than capable of carrying a heavy bat in 28 games played. The Davidson-bound catcher batted .447 with 38 hits, 28 RBIs, nine doubles and seven home runs.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Wayne Ellis, Pasadena Poly, 24th season
By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
During the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 playoffs against Crean Lutheran in Irvine, Pasadena Poly baseball coach Wayne Ellis was heading to the third-base line when the umpire had a curious question.
“I was very serious during these games,” said Ellis, in his 24th season at the helm. “The kids know what the seriousness is, but the umpire couldn’t help it and asked, `What do I have to do to get you to crack a smile in this game?”‘
Ellis laughed it off, but the look on his face was no laughing matter, it was that of pure determination. For so long, Ellis had the makeup of a championship-winning team, only to fall short time and again.
“I’ve had the No. 1-ranked team in the state and we would get bounced in the semifinals,” said Ellis, whose Panthers lost in the second round last season. “I’m really focused because I know it’s baseball where with one mistake you can be out of the tournament.”
This season was different.
“I knew we had tremendous hitting,” Ellis said. “The defense all clicked, they all fell into their spots. It was a fun team to watch this year.”
Ellis’ determination rubbed off.
“We had four nice seniors this year who were not going to be beaten by anybody,” Ellis said.
Pasadena Poly (25-2-1) played against against some of the best this season – “By far the hardest schedule I’ve ever had,” Ellis said – and when it was over, the Panthers were the best, dethroning two-time defending champion Oxford Academy with a 10-0 shellacking in the Division 6 title game.
This season proved to be the perfect storm for Ellis in so many ways. He led the Panthers to a state-record 16th consecutive (Prep) league title while also earning his 400th career victory midway through the season.
“It is nice to see it all happen all at one time,” Ellis said. “We’ve been knocking on the door for so long. They’re all nice rewards, but in a nutshell all that really mattered, I thought, was the boys were able to accomplish a goal they set off from day one. This isn’t the only year they had that goal. They knew they were good and they knew what they had to do to put it all together to win.”
And Ellis was right there righting the ship.
For bringing home the school’s first CIF-SS baseball title and etching his name in San Gabriel Valley lore, Ellis is the 2011 Star-News baseball Coach of the Year.
Ellis’ perfect storm continued throughout the season. Matt Saeta was not available to pitch this season because of an injury. Ellis tabbed Stanford-bound Brian Holman as the No. 2 starter and his judgement proved right.
“Brian’s an unbelievable story,” said Ellis, also the CIF-SS Division 6 Coach of the Year. “It’s almost a fairy tale. To do what he did for this team was simply amazing. He won 13 ball games, he molded down in the playoffs, pitched against South Hills where he gets one earned run, beats La Ca ada and suddenly we’re a great team with him on the mound.”
Holman, the CIF-SS Division 6 Player of the Year, went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA and 59 strikeouts.
The rise of the unsung heroes didn’t stop there.
“Caleb Lee stepped in at catcher for Matt when he was out,” said Ellis, who has guided the Panthers to the playoffs in 23 of his 24 seasons as coach. “Lee did a wonderful job, and when Matt came back Caleb went right back out to the outfield. He’s one of those unsung heroes, same with Logan Beerman. He’s a nice defensive player who can hit the ball.”
And that was the key to the Panthers’ success in a season that culminated with a 23-game winning streak.
“We were tough in our lineup one through nine,” Ellis said. “They were all hitting, catching, making it so much easier. Caleb also came in in relief in our first two league games. He won the first one and got a save. That got us off to a big start. That momentum just kept rolling and rolling.
“By the time we got to the Ontario Christian (doubleheader) we knew we were a good ball club. This was no fluke or us playing weak teams. It was more than just giving Arcadia and San Dimas all that we could (during nonleague).”
Ellis, a baseball institution himself, is not the kind of coach who needed a CIF championship to define his career.
“I just never felt that way,” he said. “I always felt we had so much success I never individualized it. The kids did such a nice job. Yes, I wish other teams had won CIF, but it never felt like it solidified my career. If I lose every game next year I’m still going to be the same coach. But it was a nice resolve for this team to get there.”