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By Tom Ferrall
Staff Writer 

Warriors' cap successful season with playoff run

 

Last updated 6/11/2018 at 12:13pm

Tim Gross photos

Fallbrook High School senior Michael Gross connects for a double to drive in the go-ahead and winning runs in the Warriors' 3-1 playoff win over San Dieguito Academy, May 25.

A strong playoff run capped a very successful season for the Fallbrook High School baseball team, which defined the term "greatly improved."

Last year, a young varsity team that often started five freshmen struggled through a season in which it went 5-20 overall and 2-10 in Valley League play. This year's young team – six sophomores regularly started – finished 17-16 overall and 6-6 in league play.

"What a difference," co-head coach Patrick Walker said of the Warriors' overall and league records. "And we played pretty much the same schedule."

Although Walker and his fellow coaches expected improvement this season, he admitted the team exceeded expectations.

"This was a big progression," Walker said. "To be outs away from (playing in) the CIF championship (game) with a bunch of sophomores, it's unbelievable. You have to give the credit to them."

Fallbrook earned a spot in the CIF Division 4 playoffs by winning a "play-in game" it hosted against Mission Vista High School, May 22. Junior pitcher Harrison Brown and sophomore Zach Allegro combined on a shutout in the 9-0 victory. Brown started and pitched five innings, striking out five while giving up four hits and surrendering one walk. Allegro gave up just one hit in his two innings of relief work.

Seniors Michael Gross and Collin Hoff both went 2-for-4 with two RBI against Mission Vista. Senior Trevor Sheets went 2-for-4 with one run batted in, and sophomore Grant Knox drove in two runs.

The next day the Warriors traveled to Santee, where they dropped a 5-2 decision to Foothills Christian High School. The May 23 loss in the double-elimination playoffs put the Warriors in the loser's bracket.

Fallbrook traveled to Encinitas May 25, and defeated San Dieguito Academy, 3-1. Sophomore Blake Caron started and gave up one run while scattering seven hits over six innings. Brown earned the save with a perfect seventh inning in which he struck out the side to end the game. Gross had an RBI double, and Knox plated a run on a sacrifice bunt.

The Warriors went to El Cajon May 26 for a rematch with Foothills Christian and came away with a 2-0 victory. Allegro and Brown combined on the shutout, with starter Allegro pitching five innings and Brown pitching two for the save. Allegro struck out six while allowing just one walk, and Brown gave up only one hit and struck out two in his two innings of work. Knox went 2-for-3 with an RBI and scored a run, and sophomore Tristen Smith had an RBI single.

Fallbrook traveled to Escondido May 29 and defeated San Pasqual High School 5-2 behind Caron, who pitched a complete game. Down 2-1 after five innings, the Warriors scored a run in the sixth inning to tie the game and then added three runs in the seventh. Smith went 2-for-4 with a triple and two runs batted in, and Hoff went 2-for-4 and scored two runs.

The victory gave Fallbrook the opportunity to play San Pasqual again the following day, May 30, for a chance to advance to the June 2 championship game at University of California San Diego. Fallbrook scored in the top of the first inning for a 1-0 lead that held up until San Pasqual scored three runs in the fourth inning. The Golden Eagles held on for a 3-1 victory behind senior pitcher Jake Madison, who tossed a two-hitter and ended the Warriors' season.

"The key thing is we finished strong, we never quit and the kids grew up," Walker said.

"You could see them mature and grow as baseball players. We started out (the season)

0-4, and we ended up winning 17 games. They won seven out of their last 10 with a great playoff run."

Walker said that other coaches were impressed with the competitiveness of the young Warriors, often calling the team "scrappy."

"That's the type of team you want," Walker said of the scrappy label. "Don't give up and don't be afraid of anybody."

Walker added that the Warriors are a resilient bunch.

"Baseball is a mental game, and the best thing about this team is if they boot the ball, they just come right back," Walker said. "There's no fear. They don't lose it mentally. That's what was impressive – the way they bounced back."

Walker knows that with success comes expectations, and the Warriors will be expected to contend for a title next season.

"We're definitely a team to beat – that's already out," Walker said. "We should be really competitive."

Three Warriors make all-league team

Fallbrook High School's Collin Hoff, No. 18, is greeted by his teammates after scoring the first run of the game in the Warriors' 5-2 playoff victory over San Pasqual High School, May 29.

Valley Leagues coaches named the all-league team, and pitcher and center fielder Hoff was a first-team selection. Pitcher Brown and sophomore first baseman Joel Calhoun made the second-team.

Hoff was also selected to play in the San Diego County high school all-star baseball game, which was held June 6 at Petco Park. The nine-inning game – featuring an East versus West format – was played following the San Diego Padres' game against the Atlanta Braves.

Brown was selected to play in the Junior Showcase baseball game, an all-star game for juniors, and sophomore catcher Josue Navarro was selected to play in the Underclassman Showcase.

The only team award given out is the "Ultimate Warrior," which goes beyond statistics and is "about character, attitude, sacrifice, leadership and being the ultimate team player," according to Walker. Sophomore shortstop Dean Olivo and sophomore backup catcher Ethan Schmutz earned the Ultimate Warrior Award.

 

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