Jon Austin

Jon Austin, baseball coach for Citrus Valley High School.

Former Cajon coach landed opening at Citrus Valley … McClelland had string of top relief appearances … Area minor league trio all part of Padres’ AZL Rookie League roster … Kirtley hits first HR of 2018.

It was almost too easy to predict that Jon Austin, who had long since retired as Cajon High School’s baseball coach, would turn up at Citrus Belt League rival Citrus Valley.

Austin landed an assistant’s job at Redlands High these past couple seasons. When Daren Espinosa retired as Blackhawks’ coach following the 2018 spring season, Austin worked his way into the position.

For years, Austin had Cajon on the map, not just in San Bernardino, but throughout Southern California. Over a three-season span between 2006 and 2008, the Cowboys won 67 out of 81 games.

Cajon was a top-flight contender during its San Andreas League days before that school was re-leagued into the CBL.

Cajon, operating right under the noses of that Little League system in San Bernardino -- note that Little League’s Western Region headquarters is a bike ride from the Cowboys’ diamond -- plucked plenty of those Newmark Little League all-stars to its dugout.

Not many coaches can capitalize on all those benefits.

He retired as Cajon’s coach in 2013.

By the time Citrus Valley opens its next season in 2019, Austin will have been retired for six years -- but only as a head coach.

Since his departure as Cajon coach, the Cowboys have won 86 games - 23-5 in 2015 - under Robert Grande. The two coaches will collide next spring in CBL play.

MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Jackson McClelland had five saves in seven chances while pitching for Class A Dunedin in the Florida State League this season.

The Cherry Valley product, who played at Redlands East Valley High School before signing with the Toronto Blue Jays out of Pepperdine University, had appeared in 21 games for Dunedin as of last weekend.

McClelland, whose earned run average was 3.90, is a relief pitcher attempting to work his way up the chain of the Blue Jays’ system.

His latest save came against Tampa on July 16, getting all five hitters over 1 2/3 innings, striking out two. McClelland, whose record was 1-2, had held opponents scoreless in six of his last 10 relief appearances.

Over his a six-game span, McClelland didn’t surrender a run, allowing just two hits over 7 1/3 innings.

While pitching for the Lansing Lugnuts and Dunedin last season, the 6-foot, 5-inch, 220-pound McClelland saved 15 out of 16 games, posting a combined 1.34 ERA.

McClelland shares the closer’s role with at least six other Dunedin pitchers.

Earlier this season, McClelland spent time on the disabled list. He signed with the Blue Jays in June 2015 after Toronto selected him in the 15th round.

At the major league level, the Blue Jays are using Tyler Clippard, Ryan Tepera and Seunghwan Oh, plus suspended pitcher Roberto Osuna in closer roles.

* * *

Through his first seven appearances for San Diego Padres’ Arizona League Rookie League squad, Felix Minjares had thrown 10 2/3 scoreless innings.

His professional debut came just weeks after he’d thrown his final pitch for the University of Redlands in an NCAA Division 3 Western Regional playoff game.

He was 3-0 for the AZL-2 Padres, striking out 11 and issuing seven walks.

His onetime Bulldog teammate, catcher Rainier Aguilar, a San Gorgonio High School product, struck out three times in limited play. Aguilar is one of four catchers on the Padres’ AZL-2 squad.

As of July 21, the Bulldogs’ former All-West Region player has seen action in just two games.

Another ex-Spartan, who was also signed by the Padres out of UC Riverside, is southpaw pitcher Hazahel Quijada. The lefty, who was 1-1, had posted a 4.66 ERA over six appearances, striking out 18 in 9 2/3 innings, allowing five walks.

* * *

Zach Kirtley, a Redlands East Valley High product drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals out of St. Mary’s University last year, hit his first home run of the season on July 20.

Kirtley is an infielder playing for the Peoria Chiefs, in the Midwest League. Having just returned from a stint on the disabled list, Kirtley had four hits over a three-game span against the Lansing Lugnuts.

He homered and doubled in a 7-3 win over Lansing, completing a three-game sweep - Peoria’s first series win over Lansing since 2009.

Coincidentally, the Lugnuts are the same team another ex-REV player, McClelland, played for last season.

Last year for the State College (N.Y.) Spikes, Kirtley hit two HRs, batting .223 in 51 games.

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