Eastlake State Baseball Team of Year

Eastlake players collect banner and patches after winning San Diego Section Open Division title last Saturday over Helix. Photo: Eastlake Baseball/hometeamsonline.com.


Win against Helix of La Mesa in CIF San Diego Section Open Division championship keeps Titans on top in the chase for mythical state crown. They earn their first State TOY honor in a close call over two championship teams from the CIF Southern Section. It wasn’t so much the win over Helix, however, but earlier ones against Rancho Bernardo (nationally ranked at time), La Costa Canyon and Madison that showed that it was a “team of destiny.”

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It’s not automatic that for a high school baseball team to become the Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year and earn the final No. 1 state ranking that 30 wins are needed. It’s just that to be on an all-time list that stretches back more than 100 years, when a team gets to 30 wins or more and raises the trophy of one of the state’s major CIF section titles, then that team is pretty tough to top.

Three of the team’s top seniors were catcher Bryan Reyes and infielders Casey Schmitt and Ben Ramirez. Photo: Courtesy Schmitt family.


Eastlake of Chula Vista became that team last Saturday night at UC San Diego by winning the CIF San Diego Section Open Division championship with an 8-3 triumph against Helix of La Mesa. It completed a tough week for the Titans, who had to beat Madison of San Diego twice to get a shot at the title after losing to the Warhawks to open up the double-elimination format playoffs.

Still, despite having that playoff loss, the combination of finishing 32-4 and winning a section playoff bracket that also included other state-ranked heavyweights like Rancho Bernardo, La Costa Canyon and Torrey Pines plus defending champion Cathedral Catholic gives Eastlake the resume to be named today as the 2017 State Team of the Year.

“It’s big, it’s huge and the first time in our district a team has done this,” said head coach David Gallegos in a Tuesday phone call. “Just getting there to the finals (in the Open Division) the last few years has been very tough. This year, we just had a team of destiny. So many kids at the school and all the parents and people of community were all behind us.”

The Titans become the fourth CIF San Diego Section team to finish first in the state since 2000, joining Rancho Bernardo (2000), La Costa Canyon (2003) and Vista (2012). Two teams — Etiwanda (27-3) and El Toro of Lake Forest (27-7-1) — that did not have the luxury of dropping a game at all in their march for CIF Southern Section titles, a march that was completed for both last Friday at Dodger Stadium, also deserve mention in State Team of the Year discussion.

Before Eastlake beat Helix, however, the team already was occupying the No. 1 ranking. Dropping the Titans after winning is never much of an option no matter what arguments can be made. And in the game, Eastlake came out strong.

Casey Schmitt crushed a two-run homer in the first inning, which gave junior ace Grant Holman a needed cushion. Later, L.J. Jones added a two-run single. Schmitt came on to pitch the final two innings to get his 10th save. Holman went five innings for the win and finished 10-0 himself for the season and will take a 20-0 record into next year.

Eastlake has never been State Team of the Year before, but won San Diego Section titles in 1999 and 2002. One of the top players on that 1999 team was junior Adrian Gonzalez, who was the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft in 2000 and has gone on to have a stellar MLB career (currently with the Los Angeles Dodgers). This year’s team also tied a section record with 32 wins, matching the total set by La Costa Canyon’s legendary team from 2003 (32-1).

Micha Pietula-Wiggs goes for a ride atop teammate Casey Schmitt during a goofier moment earlier in the season. Photo: Courtesy Schmitt family.


All season long, both Eastlake and Rancho Bernardo have been at the top of the section rankings and have been in the top five of the state rankings at various times. The two ended up meeting in an elimination game of the Open Division bracket and in that game the Titans rallied from a 6-0 deficit to post a 7-6 win.

“When we played RB we got off to such a bad start, but we just kept grinding,” Gallegos said. “We’re a team that hit 55 homers and then we just started getting some hits and then some more hits. Then when we faced (Madison pitcher Kevin) Abel a second time, we worked hard on not swinging so much at his curve. That worked and we hit him a few times.”

Holman was one of the standout players in 2013 when Eastlake Little League advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. That team won the U.S. national title and got to the title game against Japan but lost. Four others on this Eastlake High squad that also were on that Little League team are shortstop Micah Pietila-Wiggs, infielder Nick Mora, outfielder Jake Espinoza snd pitcher-third base Ricky Tibbett.

“For those five, and for Grant and Micah in particular, they’ve been to the big stage before,” Gallegos said. “It’s been four or five years since that happened, but playing a game like the Open Division final with everything on the line didn’t bother them at all.”

Holman does not yet have a college commitment, but four of the seniors who are bound for major colleges are Schmitt (San Diego State), Jones (Long Beach State), infielder Ben Ramirez (USC) and infielder Sonny Rivera (Long Beach State). Another junior to watch is pitcher Brian Leonhart, a San Diego State commit who had 11 wins and will join Holman as the base of what should be a big-time pitching staff.

Congratulations to all of the players and coaches at Eastlake for being the 2017 State Team of the Year.

CAL-HI SPORTS ALL-TIME
STATE BASEBALL TEAMS OF THE YEAR

Grant Gambrell (now starring at Oregon State) talks to local TV station from Fresno after Buchanan’s win in last year;’s CIF Central Section Division I final. Photo: Mark Tennis.


2017 – Chula Vista Eastlake (32-4)
2016 – Clovis Buchanan (30-1)
2015 – Pleasant Hill College Park (26-4)
2014 – Clovis (33-5)
2013 – North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (28-4)
2012 – Vista (31-4)
2011 – Clovis Buchanan (30-2)
2010 – San Jose Archbishop Mitty (31-3)
2009 – Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley (26-6)
2008 – Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (27-4)
2007 – Long Beach Wilson (31-3)
2006 – San Jose Bellarmine (34-4)
2005 – Woodland Hills El Camino Real (28-4)
2004 – Chatsworth (35-0)
2003 – Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (32-1)
2002 – La Puente Bishop Amat (28-2)
2001 – La Puente Bishop Amat (27-2)
2000 – San Diego Rancho Bernardino (30-3)
1999 – Riverside Arlington (29-2)
1998 – Clovis (33-2)
1997 – Clovis (32-2) (plus one win by default)
1996 – Granada Hills Kennedy (31-3)
1995 – Fountain Valley (26-3-1)
1994 – Fountain Valley (27-3-1)
1993 – Fresno Bullard (26-3-1)
1992 – San Diego Mira Mesa (26-5)
1991 – Ontario (26-0)
1990 – Cupertino Monta Vista (27-3)
1989 – Fresno Bullard (28-2)
1988 – Fresno Bullard (29-1)
1987 – Lakewood (25-7)
1986 – Santee Santana (26-2)
1985 – Oxnard Rio Mesa (27-3)
1984 – Rancho Cordova (33-5-1)
1983 – El Cerrito (27-1)
1982 – San Diego Mt. Carmel (24-2)
1981 – Westminster (23-4)
1980 – Fresno Bullard (29-2)
1979 – Visalia Mt. Whitney (20-3)
1978 – Larkspur Redwood (30-5)
1977 – West Covina Edgewood (29-1)
1976 – Lakewood (22-4-1)
1975 – Torrance Bishop Montgomery (27-3)
1974 – Torrance North (26-6-1)
1973 – El Segundo (30-5)
1972 – Venice (19-3)
1971 – El Segundo (33-2)
1970 – Lompoc (27-1)
1969 – Sacramento Grant (16-1)
1968 – Fresno Hoover (27-3)
1967 – Long Beach Millikan (20-4)
1966 – El Segundo (24-4-1)
1965 – San Diego Crawford (22-4)
1964 – Lynwood (23-2)
1963 – Long Beach Poly (21-4)
1962 – Sacramento Bishop Armstrong (22-2)
1961 – S.F. Sacred Heart (32-2-1)
1960 – Fresno Roosevelt (20-2)
1959 – S.F. St. Ignatius (28-3)
1958 – Fresno (25-1)
1957 – Fresno (22-2)
1956 – Ontario Chaffey (21-5)
1955 – South Gate (17-2)
1954 – L.A. Loyola (22-5)
1953 – Compton (23-2)
1952 – S.F. Sacred Heart (29-5)
1951 – Sacramento McClatchy (22-0-1)
1950 – Long Beach Wilson (24-3)
1949 – San Diego (29-3)
1948 – San Diego (26-3)
1947 – S.F. Mission (12-1)*
1946 – San Diego (24-7)
1945 – S.F. Mission (10-0, League)
1944 – S.F. Mission (9-0, League)
1943 – L.A. Fremont (13-1)
1942 – San Diego Hoover (13-0 vs. prep teams)
1941 – S.F. Galileo (12-1)*
1940 – S.F. Mission (11-1)*
1939 – San Diego (20-5)
1938 – Glendale (4-0, Playoffs)
1937 – S.F. Commerce (12-2, League)
1936 – Long Beach Poly (23-2)
1935 – Sacramento (20-1)
1934 – S.F. Mission (7-0, League)
1933 – Fresno Roosevelt (20 -2)
1932 – San Diego (11-4)
1931 – S.F. Mission (8-0, League)
1930 – San Diego (19-3)
1929 – San Diego (31-5)
1928 – San Diego (22-8-1)
1927 – Fullerton (29-5-1)
1926 – Alameda (21-1)
1925 – Los Angeles (6-0, League)
1924 – S.F. Sacred Heart (6-0)*
1923 – San Diego (15-4)
1922 – S.F. Mission (6-1)*
1921 – San Diego (18-5-2)
1920 – San Diego (13-1)
1919 – Oakland Technical (8-0)*
1918 – San Diego (12-6)
1917 – San Diego (12-1)
1916 – S.F. Poly (7-0, League)
1915 – S.F. Sacred Heart (5-0)*
1914 – S.F. Lowell (6-0)*
1913 – Long Beach Poly (19-3-1)
1912 – Long Beach Poly (17-5)
1911 – S.F. Sacred Heart (5-0)*
1910 – S.F. Sacred Heart (8-0)*
1909 – Alameda (5-0)*
1908 – Palo Alto (4-0)*
1907 – Alameda (5-1)*
1906 – S.F. Lick (1-0 League)**
1905 – S.F. Lick (9-1-1)*
1904 – Palo Alto
1903 – Berkeley
1902 – S.F. Lowell
1901 – Berkeley
1900 – S.F. Cogswell
1899 – Palo Alto (5-0)
*Record for league and playoff games only.
** Playoffs and remainder of league schedule were cancelled due to earthquake.
Lick’s 1906 team was regarded as being better than its 1905 team.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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