REDLANDS — The most successful season in Citrus Valley High baseball history came to an improbable end last week.
The Blackhawks, averaging seven runs per game, were defeated by Spring Valley Steele Canyon 1-0. The setback came in the CIF-State Southern California Regional opening game.
Cougar pitcher Ray Marrero (4-0, 3.00 earned run average) was not overpowering, but kept the Blackhawks off balance and had help from his teammates who made no errors.
Marrero allowed one hit, struck out four and walked one. The farthest a Blackhawk advanced was second base.
“I think we only struck out a few times,” Citrus Valley coach Jon Austin said. “For the most part we put the ball in play but hit it right at people and that’s baseball. It’s a crazy game.”
Said Citrus Valley slugger Devin Martinez, “It was just tough luck. We hit the ball hard, but the ball wasn’t carrying. Riley had a good hit and the kid somehow barely caught it. Snyd had a good hit — it’s just unfortunate.”
Martinez was referring to a line drive from Riley Hunsaker in the direction of the Steele Canyon right fielder. He one-handed the ball and caught it in the heel of his glove. It was that kind of day for the Blackhawks (22-8).
“It’s sad but we had a good season,” Martinez said. “We won CIF. You can’t ask for more than that. If we had won this it would have been crazy.”
Austin certainly had no qualms about a season in which Citrus Valley captured the first section title in school history, defeating his old school, Cajon, 6-2 four days earlier at Long Beach’s Blair Field.
“It’s a tough one to lose — we had possibly two more games to play, but the one thing we can take away from this is we’re CIF champs,”Austin said. “It was an amazing season, starting with the fact we got to play.”
Austin was alluding to the coronavirus, the worldwide pandemic that almost wiped out the entire 2020-21 season.
Steele Canyon (23-11) advanced to play in the regional semifinals on Thursday, June 24, at No. 1 seed Simi Valley Royal.
Cougars coach Jesse Evans said his team came into the game blind.
“We didn’t know a lot about them,” Evans said. “We did what scouting we could through MaxPreps. By the time we got here we saw that we seemed to match up pretty evenly, and it showed in the box score.”
Steele Canyon scored the only run of the game, off Citrus Valley sophomore pitcher Jacob Jacome, in the first inning. Sebastian Granados was hit by a pitch, advanced to second base on a throwing error, stole third and scored on a groundout by Jake Entreken.
Jacome had a no-hitter through 3 2/3 innings and allowed three hits for the game. He struck out five and walked two.
“Jac was phenomenal,” Austin said. “I know he had been tired, so I was glad we were able to get him some extra days rest. He threw well. And hats off to their kid too — he was phenomenal. He found the strike zone and that’s just baseball. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
Citrus Valley can take solace in a section title, a 22-victory season and a dog pile at Blair Field when it remembers the 2021 season.
“I think it was great that we made it this far,” Blackhawk star Blake Griffin said. “It’s definitely an accomplishment and my senior year will be one to remember forever.”