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Hoff, Gross honored for providing leadership to young baseball club

Juniors Collin Hoff and Michael Gross were both honored with the Ultimate Warrior Award by the coaching staff of the Fallbrook High School baseball team for their leadership during a tough campaign.

Hoff, a second team All Valley League selection, and Gross each enjoyed great moments during the season while helping a very young varsity team (seven freshmen were on the roster) compete against older rivals on a regular basis.

As to be expected of a varsity team that would at times start five freshmen, the Warriors took some beatings. The club ended the season 5-20 overall and 2-10 in league play but never quit, according to co-head coach Patrick Walker.

"We saw kids growing and really maturing as baseball players," said Walker, who in 25 years of coaching had never seen a varsity team so young. "That's what we hoped for. We knew we were going to take our lumps, but we wanted to see improvement. I mean, they're freshmen playing varsity baseball right out of middle school. You look at it like that and you go, 'wow, pretty impressive.'"

Walker said Hoff and Gross refused to let their teammates get down, always offering encouragement. They also set the tone for the squad with a professional work ethic.

"They provided great leadership," said Walker. "They showed their hard work and their hustle and their discipline every day in practice. That's how they led. During games when we were hitting, they would be the guys that would tell everybody to get up (off the bench). They kept the kids in the game.

"They also encouraged the young kids to keep working hard," continued Walker. "Every day, we expect our players to focus in practice, to work hard, to hustle, to have a good attitude, and to be coachable. Those are the things we really want, and those juniors definitely were a great example of that. And we'll need that from those guys again next year, to lead this team as seniors on what will still be a pretty young team made-up of mostly sophomores."

Hoff and Gross both had games this season they'll never forget.

Hoff threw a no-hitter on the Warriors' home diamond, Duke Snider Field, May 10, when Fallbrook defeated Valley Center 4-0. Using an effective curveball and changeup, along with a fastball that reached 81 mph, Hoff baffled the Valley Center hitters and became the first Fallbrook pitcher to throw a "no-no" since Andy White no-hit Great Oak in Temecula on March 17, 2015.

Hoff also became the first Warrior to throw a no-hitter at Duke Snider Field since April 10, 2008, when Chase Johnson pulled off the feat against El Camino.

Hoff, who played left field when he wasn't pitching, had an outstanding season at the plate en route to earning second team all-league honors. According to Valley League statistics posted on maxpreps.com, Hoff finished fourth in the league in batting average with a .371 average and fifth in the league in on-base percentage with a .470 mark.

Gross swatted his first career home run April 21 and did so with the bases loaded, thus recording his first grand slam. Gross also had a run-scoring double and a two-run single as he drove in all seven of the Warriors' runs in a game against San Pasqual.

Walker said a team highlight was its 5-1 upset of Escondido on the road April 24. Escondido had a 15-3 record at the time and the Warriors started freshman pitcher Zach Allegro, who went the distance.

"Throwing a freshman, Allegro, on the mound and seeing him pitch a complete game," Walker responded quickly when asked about a memorable game. "There was some great defense behind him and some real timely hitting, but also some smart baseball. The kids played not only out by out, but pitch by pitch, and that's the focus that we really encourage."

As for next season, work is already underway. "We will look to continue to improve during summer league," said Walker.

 

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