FANTASTIC FOUR: From left, former South Hills standouts Dominic Martinez, Christian Ibarra, Cody Doyle and Andrew Morales have had quite an impact on the Rio Hondo College baseball team.
(Keith Durflinger / Staff Photographer)
Here’s my story on four former South Hills High School baseball players who have Rio Hondo College on the brink of a state championship:
By Steve Ramirez, SGVN
WHITTIER — Rio Hondo College has been arguably the most consistent baseball program in the California Community College Athletic Association in recent years.
The Roadrunners, who face Cosumnes River College of Sacramento on Friday at 6 p.m. at Bakersfield College, are in the CCCAA Final Four for the second time in three seasons and have won the Foothill Conference title three out of the past four.
One of the keys to the Roadrunners’ success has been a connection that can be traced back to South Hills High School.
Rio Hondo’s recent standouts came from the West Covina school, and it’s no different this season, in which the Roadrunners have been led by former Huskies Christian Ibarra, Cody Doyle, Dominic Martinez and Andrew Morales.
All four were key players on South Hills’ CIF-Southern Section Division3 championship team in 2009 and now have the Roadrunners on the brink of a CCCAA title.
“It’s odd because, on average, maybe one or two players will play college baseball from a high school team,” said Rio Hondo coach Mike Salazar, who is in his 12th season with the Roadrunners. “To have four from the same high school who are playing on a college team is very special. It shows what a good job they did, what their coaches did at their high school.
“It’s been good to have them here. We’ve had a lot of good South Hills players. Every South Hills player who has come here has (received) a scholarship (to a four-year school). When they hear (what those players have accomplished), they trust us.”
CCCAA FINAL FOUR AT BAKERSFIELD COLLEGE
Consumnes River (25-16) vs. Rio Hondo (38-3)
Note: All games in the double-elimination tournament will be available via live webcast at coasports.org
Salazar and his staff has solid faith in this group, which has played a major role in the Roadrunners’ 38-3 record that includes a 33-game winning streak coming into Friday’s game against Cosumnes River (25-16).
The trail to Whittier was started by Ibarra and Morales, who came to Rio Hondo last season and helped the Roadrunners win 37 of 42 games before being eliminated in the Southern California Super Regionals.
Martinez and Doyle followed suit this season.
Ibarra, who will play at NCAA DivisionI power Louisiana State next season, is the leader of the group. He is hitting a team-high .409 with 48 RBIs and 39 runs.
He knows the importance of playing with guys he’s familiar with.
“It’s helps having these guys here,” Ibarra said. “I’ve known them for a while, so I know what they can do.
“I’ve always been interested in coming here. I really wasn’t able to come to a bigger school and this was my second option.”
Doyle’s story is slightly different. The senior, who was one of the top catchers in CIF-SS Division 3 his junior and senior seasons at South Hills, signed with the University of New Mexico his senior year with the Huskies.
But he decided to come home and Rio Hondo – with a little help from Morales – was a perfect landing spot.
“I just didn’t like it there (at New Mexico),” Doyle said. “I wanted to play. I wanted to win and wanted to come to a place that could win.”
Doyle has helped in that cause by hitting .361 with seven home runs and 45 RBIs. He’s also been a welcome addition defensively. Morales said the catcher has been a big factor in the sophomore’s 12-0 record and 1.89 ERA. Morales also had 73 strikeouts in 95 innings.
“I was trying to convince him to come over here,” Morales said. “Cody’s been my catcher since high school. I’ve played with all these guys since I was little, so it’s a good choice he came back.”
Martinez, a freshman outfielder, has been a solid addition as well. He’s hitting .243 with 22 RBIs and eight doubles.
“I know I can depend on these guys,” Martinez said. “Everyone on the team is a real tight group. We know if somebody doesn’t get the job done, somebody else will.
“It’s helped having my high school teammates here, because once you get that feeling of winning, you’re not going to want to lose. And we all understand that. We take every game the same. We try to win every day, and we’re on a good streak right now.”
Rio Hondo is hoping it can continue it this weekend. It starts Friday night against Cosumnes River, which is the North No. 1 seed after beating San Mateo, 13-3, in last weekend’s super regional championship game.
The winner faces either South No. 1 Orange Coast (36-5-1) or North No. 2 Sierra (25-15-1), which play at noon, on Saturday at 2 p.m. The losers meet in an elimination game at 10 a.m. on Saturday, with the championship game slated for Sunday at 11 a.m.
The Hawks are led by Austin Ales (10-2, four saves) and infielders Josh Silver (.315, 26 RBIs) and Jake Schu (.301, 21 RBIs.)
“They are going to be coached really well and scrappy and tough,” Salazar said. “We just want to focus on what we do. It’s like in golf, where for many years the other players talked about Tiger Woods. You need to worry about yourself. We’re worried about what we do.
“Other teams we respect them all, but we have to do our job.”