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.”