Gavin leads St. Francis charge

April 12, 2014

At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, St. Francis ace left-hander John Gavin is one intimidating competitor on the mound.

Not only has the Fullerton-committed senior dominated in two outings against Serra this year. Through an array of fist-pumps, rally yawps, and extended stare-downs into the opponent’s dugout as he walks off the hill, Gavin has dominated with vigor.

That’s the game face of Gavin, who will be regarded as a high-value target come the Major League Baseball draft in June. Once he steps off the field though, the big senior is like a different guy — all boyish smiles and even a tendency to blush when put on the spot — not that he backs down from the opportunity to flash the interview chops which he’s refined during the flurry of media attention this season.

“I’m a different person (on the field),” Gavin said. “That’s how I’ve been since little league. My friends call me a gentle giant. But when I get between the lines it’s a different story.”

The story has not been kind to archrival Serra this season. Gavin fired six-plus shutout innings Friday to earn the win in St. Francis’ 3-0 win to move into first place in the West Catholic Athletic League. Earlier this season, he threw six shutout innings in taking a no-decision as St. Francis went on to win 1-0 in extra innings.

Gavin has amassed a 4-0 record on the year, and in yielding just two earned runs on the season touts a miniscule 0.33 ERA with 53 strikeouts against 13 walks through 43 innings. The third-year varsity senior now owns a 22-2 career record. But Friday’s win was his first ever against Serra.

And Gavin’s emotion between the lines was obvious early and often.

Uncharacteristically issuing four walks in the game, Gavin walked Serra leadoff hitter Chris Papapietro to start the first inning. On the ensuing pitch as Serra’s Nolan Dempsey attempted to bunt, however, Gavin pounded the top of the zone with a hard low-90s fastball. The result was a short popup in front of the mound which Gavin tracked down like a cat. He quickly wheeled and fired a strike to first base to double up Papapietro.

And the animated fist pump and rally cry that punctuated the twin killing resonated throughout the rest of the game.

After firing six scoreless frames, Gavin went out to start the seventh. After surrendering a leadoff double to Serra’s James Outman, St. Francis manager Mike Oakland went to the bullpen. With Outman’s double was only the second Serra base runner to reach scoring position in the game. The Padres tabbed a third against St. Francis closer Patrick McMullen, but would strand the bases loaded to end it.

“[Gavin] got up to 90 pitches and I wanted to protect him,” Oakland said. “In fact, that was his last batter no matter what. Even if he got him out I was going to go get him.”

Come June, there should be some major league teams interested in going to get Gavin as well. Both he and catcher Tim Susnara are garnering serious attention. Susnara, a left-handed hitting catcher, is committed to Oregon next year. Gavin, Susnara and Serra pitcher Matt Blais (committed to UC Davis) all played for the same summer team in 2013.

As for the future, Gavin is more focused on the immediate with St. Francis currently one game atop the WCAL standings over second-place Mitty.

“I’m just trying to win a [Central Coast Section] championship right now,” Gavin said. “I’m not really too worried about [the draft] right now. When we’re done doing what we need to do on the field for St. Francis then I’ll worry about it.”


Cap is armed and dangerous

April 5, 2014

Jesse Orozco and Greg Gonzalez stood upon the bullpen mound and watched as their alma mater Capuchino took on Burlingame in a classic Friday night matchup at Washington Park.

It couldn’t have been more fitting for Cap to showcase the best one-two punch to pitch at the school since Orozco and Gonzalez’s sensational senior season of 2005. The Mustangs marched out junior left-hander Joe Galea for five innings then turned to fireballing senior right-hander Rory McDaid in the sixth.

Even though Burlingame went on to win 4-3, it’s clear that Capuchino means business this season. And it will be the arms of Galea and McDaid which decide how far this Mustangs team will go.

Behind Orozco and Gonzalez in 2005, Cap advanced to the Central Coast Section Division II semifinals. To put that into perspective, only two other times in school history has Cap baseball advances as far. In 2003 the Mustangs reached the Division III semis; and in 1981 they advanced to the championship game only to lose 4-0 to St. Francis. Since 2005, they have not surpassed the CCS quarterfinals.

Orozco and Gonzalez both went on to prestigious careers. After both pitched at Skyline College, they took different paths. Orozco became the first of four Skyline players to transfer to Oklahoma Baptist, which has since become one of the most dominant NAIA baseball programs in the nation. Gonzalez transferred to Fresno State where he threw a no-hitter before being drafted by the San Diego Padres in 2011.

And Capuchino manager Matt Wilson, who coached both the 2005 and the 2014 Mustangs, knows precisely what he’s got in Galea and McDaid.

“I’d say this is the best pitching staff I’ve had since the ’05 team with Orozco and Gonzalez,” Wilson said.

Capuchino’s 13-4 overall record corroborates that statement. And before Friday night, the Mustangs — playing out of the b-league Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division this season — had won six straight non-league games. They have beaten both West Catholic Athletic League St. Ignatius (9-6) and PAL Bay Division Half Moon Bay (8-6) thus far. And their four losses have come across some tough customers in Leland (9-6), Pinole Valley (7-4-1), rival Mills and Burlingame.

“I scheduled a tough schedule on purpose because that’s the kind of character I want these guys to have,” Wilson said. “No matter who you play you play at a high level. And going into league, how tough our league is, you’ve got to play those tough games.”

Galea, after taking the loss Friday, falls to 4-2 but leads the Mustangs in ERA (1.44), innings pitched (39) and strikeouts (47). McDaid paces the team with a 4-1 record while trailing just behind his southpaw counterpart with 33 2-3 innings pitched and 45 strikeouts. The tandem also ranks one-two in the Ocean Division in strikeouts.

Meanwhile, Capuchino didn’t sit on its Friday loss very long. The Mustangs woke up for a 10:30 a.m. Saturday game and promptly walloped Balboa 12-3.

After a one-week Ocean Division layoff due to spring break, league play resumes Tuesday and gets interesting in a hurry for the Mustangs. Currently tied for first place with Hillsdale at 3-1 in Ocean play, Cap begins a two-game series at third-place Sequoia Tuesday. The Cherokees own the second best overall record in the Ocean after Cap with a 9-3-1 mark. Next week, the Mustangs clash with Hillsdale in a two-game series.