Nick Gallegos hitting a two run home run in the top of the third inning. California High School Boys baseball team won the game against La Serna High School 6-3 in Whittier Friday, April 24, 2015.(Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)
By Stephen Ramirez
WHITTIER – For the second consecutive game, La Serna High School got off to an early lead against rival California, and once again the Condors showed they had the Lancers right where they wanted them.
Nick Gallegos hit a two-run home run in the third inning and made a game-saving catch in the fifth as California rallied for a 6-3 victory over host La Serna in a key Del Rio League game on Friday.
Eric Sotelo also had two hits and a RBI for the Condors, who improved to 18-4 overall and 7-2 in league play. California, ranked No. 2 in the area and No. 3 in CIF-Southern Section Division 4, began the day tied for first with Santa Fe, which was at El Rancho on Friday.
John Mendoza hit a two-run home run to lead the Lancers, who slipped to 15-9 and 5-4.
Cal coach Tony Nieto: “I’m so proud of our team. They are so resilient. They’ve bought into Condor way, in terms of playing scrappy, hard-nosed baseball. La Serna is a good team. They’ve got some good hitters, pitchers. But we got some good ones, too. We’re going to fight until that 21st out.”
California’s Nick Gallegos: “My at-bats, I always look for fastballs. I got one right down the middle. It was one of the greatest swings I ever took. It came right off the bat. Once I rounded first, I had no doubt that it was gone.”
La Serna’s John Mendoza: “From the moment I hit it I thought it was over,” Mendoza said. “I thought it was going to be a completely different game. But he made a great play.”
La Serna coach Anthony Gonzales Jr.: “One bad inning. We were a foot away. First time in eight years I’ve seen someone rob a home run right there. (The) kid made a heckuva play; had a heckuva day. What are you going to do, it’s baseball.”
California starting pitcher Daniel Alvarez throws against La Serna in the second inning of a prep baseball game at California High School in Whittier , Calif., Wednesday, April 22, 2015. California won 10-4. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
By Stephen Ramirez
WHITTIER – There hasn’t been a better pitcher in the Del Rio League over the previous two seasons than California’s Daniel Alvarez.
The senior is the league’s two-time reigning Pitcher of the Year, and played a key role in the Condors advancing to the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 quarterfinals last season.
But with success comes expectations, and that’s been Alvarez’s biggest task this spring as he hopes to lead California to another Del Rio League title and another solid run in the postseason.
“He’s doing a good job,” California coach Tony Nieto said. “It’s definitely a challenge every year, because he’s been pitcher of the year two years in a row.
“You can say he has a target on his back, with all the teams wanting to put a notch on their belt, in terms of ‘we got Alvarez.’ But it’s never easy. We’re trying to win ball games and he gives us the best chance. He’s doing a phenomenal job, and we expect a good run from him (the rest of the season), and hopefully an extended run in the playoffs.”
Alvarez has lived up to those expectations. He’s again been arguably the top pitcher in the area. He’s 6-2 and ranks among area leaders with a 1.08 earned run average. He also has 72 strikeouts in 51 innings.
But the senior believes he could have done better earlier, and he’s hoping to pick it up during the final stretch of the season.
“I don’t think I’ve thrown to my ability yet,” said Alvarez, who was 9-3 with a 0.99 ERA last season and 5-1 with a 1.53 ERA in 2013. “It’s been tough living up to the hype. A lot of people know who I am, and I’m trying to not beat myself.”
For the most part, he hasn’t. In his 11 starts, he’s only given up two earned runs or more twice. He has a shutout against Whittier on March 20 and allowed one hit in six innings against the Cardinals on April 15. Both Condor wins.
“He’s tough, he’s tough,” Whittier coach Eric Ramirez said of Alvarez. “He can throw any pitch over the plate at anytime. To me, that’s what a good pitcher does.
“He keeps you off balance. He’s tough to hit. He’s done that for three years. It’s not a fluke, obviously. He’s one of those guys you think you should be able to hit him, but you can’t. He’s had a great career.“
Another part of Alvarez’s strength is that he’s rarely fazed. He was sluggish in a start vs. rival La Serna earlier this week, giving up four runs and seven hits during the first three innings. But he finished strong, giving up just two hits over the final four innings to help the Condors score a key 10-4 victory in their chase for back-to-back league titles.
He feels his best efforts of the season are ahead of him.
“I feel I’m coming back,” Alvarez said. “I just come play my game and do the best I can do.”
By Stephen Ramirez
California’s bench reacts after scoring against La Serna in the fifth inning of a prep baseball game at California High School in Whittier , Calif., Wednesday, April 22, 2015. California won 10-4. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News)
WHITTIER – If California High School goes on to win the Del Rio League baseball title, the Condors might look back at its game Wednesday against rival La Serna as a key moment.
Alex Gonzalez and Nick Gallegos had two RBIs each and the California rallied from an early deficit to score a 10-4 victory over La Serna to stay in first in the Del Rio League.
Gonzalez also had three hits and Gallegos and Eric Sotelo had two each for the Condors, who improved to 17-4 overall and 6-2 in league play. Travis Miller had three RBIs for La Serna, which slipped to 15-8 and 5-3.
The teams began the day in a three-way tie for first with Santa Fe, which played El Rancho on Wednesday.
The Condors, trailing 4-0, cut it to 4-3 in their half of the second. Mike Elliott and Sotelo led off with singles before Gallegos followed with a RBI single to make it 4-1.
Sotelo scored on a passed ball before Gonzalez followed with a RBI single to trim it to 4-3.
Brandon Acosta hit a RBI triple in the fourth to tie it at 4 before Gonzalez followed with a RBI single for a 5-4 lead.
California pushed it 7-4 in the fifth on a RBI double by Sotelo and a RBI single by Gallegos. The Condors put it away with three runs in the sixth for a 10-4 lead.
Cal’s Alex Gonzalez: “This game of baseball is very mental. You have to play as one. We went into (the dugout) telling ourselves to play this game for the guy on your right, the guy on your left and we will win this game. That’s what we did. We clutched up and got some big hits.”
La Serna’s Travis Miller: “I think we just got too comfortable with the lead,” Miller said. “Cal’s a good team and I think they showed it’s a seven-inning game.”
Cassandra Hair signs her letter of intent to play women’s basketball at San Diego Christian College with her parents, Michael and Anita, at Whittier High School in Whittier on Wednesday April 22, 2015. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News)
By Stephen Ramirez
WHITTIER – What happens to former Cardinals? They become Hawks.
At least that’s the scenario for Whittier High School girls basketball player Cassandra Hair, who officially went from being a Cardinal to a San Diego Christian Hawk when she signed a letter of intent to attend the NAIA school on Wednesday.
“I’m sticking with the birds,” Hair joked “I feel really blessed to be given this opportunity (at San Diego Christian). I’m really excited for my future as a Hawk.”
Hair was one of the top players in the area this past season. She was first team All-Area and All-Del Rio League while helping Whittier to a 17-11 record and a second-place finish.
San Diego Christian competes in the Golden State Athletic Conference. The Hawks were 9-21 last season.
“It was time to make my decision, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” Hair said. “I was given this opportunity to come to a try-out, and I did very good. I was really impressed with the team.
“I’m just really looking forward to playing there, and that’s why I’ve made this decision. It’s in a beautiful area in San Diego, and I’m just really looking forward to the next couple of years.”
The past few years have been good for Hair, who averaged 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds a contest this past season. She also averaged 7.3 and 5.6 as a junior.
“I’m really glad that I was able to accomplish most of my goals (in high school),” Hair said. “I made first team All-Area, first team all-league, led by team in scoring and rebounding. I was pretty happy with this past season, and now I’m looking forward to improving more and getting even better.”
Here family also won’t have to venture far to see here. San Diego Christian plays road games at nearby Biola (La Mirada), Concordia (Irvine) and Vanguard (Costa Mesa).
“Yes, some of the games are close,” Hair said. “My parents will get to see me play. I’m very excited.”