First published in the May 28 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The John Burroughs and Moreno Valley high school baseball teams sent their aces to the mound in a battle for the CIF-SS Division V title.
JBHS senior Gunnar Nichols, a Pepperdine University commit, squared off against Moreno Valley’s Frank Camarillo, who has committed to play next season at the UC Santa Barbara, in a game that was ultimately decided by a single run in an outstanding pitchers’ duel.
Friday’s championship game seemed to favor the Vikings, who entered the matchup with a 26-3 overall record, but the Bears squeezed out a 1-0 victory — the first baseball title in school’s 74-year history — behind a complete game shutout by Nichols and a crucial two-out RBI by catcher Mason Medina in the bottom of the fourth inning.
“I felt like the pitcher was really razzled after he threw two balls to me,” Medina said. “I saw a fastball up and I just drove it to right-centerfield — that’s all we could do with that fastball outside.”
Despite committing three errors and registering only two base hits compared to Moreno Valley’s five hits, the Bears made the most of their limited scoring opportunities while the Vikings struggled with runners in scoring position, leaving a pair of runners stranded on third base and another on second in the latter half of the game. JBHS only left one runner on base.
That one run was all Nichols needed to power through a complete game effort where he threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of the 25 batters he faced, striking out 10 while allowing five hits and no walks on 94 pitches (66 strikes).
“I do my best on the mound no matter what the fielders do. If they make an error, I try to pick them up with a strikeout or a fly out — anything to get an out,” Nichols said.
Second baseman Nate Chapman produced a base hit, pinch-runner Dylan Conahan scored the deciding run, third baseman Andrew Chapman tallied a stolen base and shortstop Steven Suarez walked once.
“Captain America over here, Mason Medina, with a big hit and there was never a doubt in my mind he wasn’t going to come in clutch. And Conahan does what he does — he scores runs; that’s why we put him in there,” JBHS head coach Matt Magallon said. “I thought our team battled really well and I thought the players were able to adjust to [Camarillo], his tempo, his speed and just the way he presented himself on the mound.”
Burroughs (22-10 overall) isn’t finished yet. After winning the CIF title, the Bears qualified for the CIF Regional Championships, with the tournament’s opening round scheduled for Tuesday, May 31, at 4 p.m. The playoff pairings will be released by the CIF State Office tomorrow.