By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
Christmas came a bit early for several area athletes, who all signed their scholarship letters to their respective colleges on Wednesday.
National letter of intent day was a banner crop for locals, led by Damien High School boys basketball player Jeremy Hemsley, who signed with San Diego State. The list also features several of the area’s top baseball players, including San Dimas’ Peter Lambert (UCLA), South Hills’ Gavin Velasquez (Cal State Fullerton), Glendora’s Nick Kaye (Cal State Fullerton), Damien’s Jonathan Olsen (UCLA) and Isaiah Carranza (Oregon), Bonita’s Danny Gelalich (Brigham Young), Nogales’ Anthony Guardado (Long Beach State) and La Mirada’s Ethan Lopez (Hawaii).
Softball players signing include La Habra’s Amanda Akles (Eastern Michigan), Los Altos’ Celeste Wood (MIchigan State) and Berlynne Delamora (North Carolina), Bonita’s Chloe Melanson (Miami-Ohio) and South Hills’ Caitlyn Van Hemelryck (Southeastern Louisiana).
Hemsley has been the Tribune Player of the Year each of the past two seasons. He will join a San Diego State program that many feel might be the best program on the West Coast after advancing to the NCAA Tournament each of the past five seasons, including two trips to the Sweet 16.
“First, it was about the basketball,” Hemsley said. “They are a very good team. The coaches do a very good job, and I think this is the place that can take be to the next level.
“I don’t follow a lot of the college teams. But I paid attention to San Diego State, because they were the first to show interest in me, and that meant a lot.”
2014 EARLY SIGNEES LIST
Jeremy Hemsley, Damien, San Diego State
Peter Lambert, San Dimas, UCLA
Gavin Velasquez, South Hills, Cal State Fullerton
Nick Hernandez, Charter Oak, Cal Poly Pomona
Danny Gelalich, Bonita, BYU
Austin Isenhart, Glendora, New Mexico
Jonathan Olsen, Damien, UCLA
Anthony Guardado, Nogales, Long Beach State
Isaiah Carranza, Damien, University of Oregon
Ethan Lopez, La Mirada, Hawaii
Sergio Robles, Bishop Amat, Cal State Bakersfield
Nick Kaye, Glendora, Cal State Fullerton
Ryan Beyer, Glendora, University of Pacific
Taylor Escobar, Whittier Christian, Grand Canyon University
Eryn Sustayta, Bishop Amat, Utah Valley
Celeste Wood, Los Altos, Michigan State
Ashley Diaz, South El Monte, Arkansas
Tannon Snow, Chino Hills, Washington
Berlynne Delamora, Los Altos, North Carolina
Chloe Melanson, Bonita, University of Miami, Ohio
Lindsey Hughes, San Dimas, Stony Book University, New York
Marissa Reyes, South Hills, Biola University
Niko Walker, St. Paul, Hawaii Pacific
Kalie Chavez, Charter Oak, Biola University
Caitlyn VanHemelryck, South Hills High School, Southeastern Louisiana University
Sasha Allen, South Hills, Northwest University (Kirkland, WA.)
Amanda Akles, La Habra, Eastern Michigan
Christine Pinela, Charter Oak, Azusa Pacific
Myranda Bueno, St. Paul, UNLV
Destiny Avena, St. Paul, CSU Monterrey Bay
Bailie Carroll, St. Lucy’s, Azusa Pacific
Savanna Corr, Chino Hills, Sacramento State
Natalia Bocanegra, South Hills, Howard College
Hanna Armendariz, Bishop Amat, Portland University
Girls Water Polo
Nichol Feldtz, St. Lucy’s, Sienna University
Hilary Adkins, St. Lucy’s, University of California
Devynn Stein, Charter Oak, Cal State Bakersfield
Michael Wang, Rowland, UC Santa Barbara
Madi Witt, Flintridge Prep, USC
Aubree Rosa, Charter Oak, University of Kentucky
Isabella Tsark, Glendora, Seattle Pacific University
Bethany Wu, Diamond Bar, UCLA
Patricia Wong, Walnut, Pepperdine
Jordan Della Guistina, Damien, Bethany College
Nathan Clark, Damien, Cal Poly SLO
Below: Charter Oak signees, left to right, Kalie Chavez, softball, Biola University; Nick Hernandez, softball, Cal Poly Pomona; Christine Pinela, softball, Azusa Pacific; Devynn Stein, girls water polo, Cal State Bakersfield; Aubree Rosa, gymnastics, University of Kentucky
The senior has averaged 19 and 22 points per game, respectively, the past two seaosns, including leading Damien to CIF-Southern Section 3AA title in 2012-13.
Lambert and Velasquez were two of the area’s top pitchers last season and will continue their careers at two of the top programs in the country.
Lambert, who was 11-2 with a 0.59 ERA in leading San Dimas to the Valle Vista League title, joins a UCLA program that has had its best success in recent years, including winning the College World Series in 2013.
“My decision was pretty easy,” Lambert said. “It goes back to last season. They were one of my only offers and UCLA has always been a dream school for me.”
Velasquez, who was 10-1 with a 0.67 ERA, is the latest area star to join Cal State Fullerton, which past standouts have included Justin Garza (Bonita), Wes Roemer (Glendora), Tyler and Brett Pill (Covina) and Sergio and Richy Pedroza (Northview).
“It’s a great baseball program and has my major that I want to major in,” Velasquez said. “Their coaching staff is great. They have great history, the College World Series .. just a great program overall.”
Lopez, an infielder who hit .333 with 19 RBIs for La Mirada, arrived at Hawaii after earlier de-committing from USC.
“I didn’t feel (USC) would be the right fit for me,” said. “I restarted the recruiting process. Hawaii came around and when I went out there, it felt like home.”
Wood was one the area’s top softball players after hitting .547 to go along with a 12-2 record in the circle. She has no qualms playing at Michigan State and away from home.
“I’m ready for the experience,” Wood said. “I’m ready to grow my own independence and be on my own.
“(Michigan State) is a beautiful camps and the coaches are very nice. I watched a couple of the practices and I just fell in love with what they do.”