East County Sports

Hillers return to championship peak

2017 San Diego CIF Division I champion Grossmont Foothillers





By Ramon Scott



SAN DIEGO – Grossmont head coach JORDAN ABRUZZO has seen his share of offensive success at the University of San Diego.

The former El Capitan High catching great, who once had three homers and eight RBI in a NCAA regional game for the Toreros, is USD’s career leader in hits and RBI after a stellar career at Alcala Park from 2004-07.

So he had to be impressed with his Foothillers and their approach at the plate in the San Diego CIF Division I championship game Friday night against Francis Parker at Fowler Park.

Grossmont’s KANNON ROMERO (facing) and JAYDEN LOMBARDO celebrate following the final out.

Grossmont (19-14) produced three quick runs in the top of the first and overcame some control issues on the mound to win the school’s 12th overall baseball title, moving into a tie for first all-time in the section with an 8-3 victory.

The Foothillers didn’t take long against Parker’s undefeated starter when junior JESSE GARCIA had a one-out RBI single in the top of the first. AUSTIN ODOM scored on the hit.

Senior JACKSON HULETT followed with a high-chopper between third and short, allowing senior JAYDEN LOMBARDO to scored on the base hit, giving Grossmont a 2-0 lead.

Junior CHRIS GIOVENGO doubled over the right fielder near the line, as Hulett scored from first for a 3-0 lead.

Hulett got the championship game start for Grossmont and kept his team in comfortable distance from the Lancers – despite four hit batters – until it came close to unraveling as he wore down.

Grossmont’s KANNON ROMERO delivers a pitch during the Division I championship game at USD on Friday night. / photo by Don De Mars

However, senior KANNON ROMERO, who has continued to be steller in relief as the season progressed in importance, calmed the situation with minimal damage and finished strong, including retiring eight-straight Parker batters, ensuring the Hillers would win somewhat comfortably.

Parker (22-8) scored on a sacrifice fly in the last of the first to make it 3-1.

Hulett navigated out of a little more trouble in the second when he eventually retired the side on a fielder’s choice ground out to short with two aboard.

Grossmont got things going again in the top of the third when the Hillers put two men aboard with one out, but the Lancers turned a chopper to the third base bag into a 5-3 double play to kill another threat.

Hulett retired Parker in order in the bottom of the third.

Grossmont got a walk from senior NOAH LEVIN to start the top of the fourth. He eventually scored on a RBI single from MAX FORD with two out, giving the Hillers a 4-1 lead.

Things got a little dicey for Hulett in the fourth when he simply lost the strike zone, as a pair of Lancers got on.

However, Hulett coaxed a 3-2 flyout to left fielder junior JASE RUSSELL, who recovered from an awkward catch and still had the gun to throw out the Parker runner trying to tag up from second for a double play.

After another walk, the Lancers still had two on with two out, but Hulett got a swinging strikeout to end another threat.

Francis Parker was back to work in the bottom of the fifth, putting two men on and knocking Hulett out of the game following a single to left with no outs.

Romero came on for Grossmont to stem the tide.

The Lancers scored on a fielder’s choice ground out for the first out, closing the score to 4-2.

Parker still had the bases loaded after their fifth batter of the game had been hit, this time by Romero. Parker closed it to 4-3 on a wild pitch.

Grossmont got a pair of singles to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Then an errant pickoff throw to second by the catcher allowed Giovengo to advance to third.

A walk loaded the bases for the Hillers. Grossmont had seven walks on the evening to go with its nine hits.

A line drive to left by junior TYLER PARENT to right field resulted in an out, as Giovengo tagged and appeared to be dead to rights at the plate, but his straight-forward slide at the plate deflected the ball just out of the catcher’s glove, extending Grossmont’s lead to 5-3.

Then a single for Grossmont re-loaded the bases once again and the Hillers added three more runs, including a two-run hit by Garcia, who had three RBI in the game.

Grossmont’s JACKSON HULETT slides safely into third Friday night. / photo by Don De Mars

Hulett picked up his second hit in the top of the seventh and made the crowd roar on a humorous advance from second to third after a pickoff throw got away.

Hulett had picked up his helmet in what he may have though was going to be an easy scramble to third, but when the infielder made a quick recovery and throw, Hulett had already carried his helmet in his right hand in all the way through his head-first dive into third.

He was thrown out at the plate one batter later, however, on a line drive out to centerfield. as the Parker outfielder was coming in from close range, giving him a perfect shot at throwing him out. His hard slide feet-first slide shook up the Parker catcher for a moment, but the play was an easy out call.

From there, Romero quietly executed his catch-and-release rhythm to quickly get through the Parker order in the last two frames.

A starter for the first half of the season, Romero may have played the key role in the Foothillers’ title push, allowing just three earned runs in 21 1/3 innings of relief in May and tonight, which went down officially as three hitless innings, with two strikeouts and an earned run

Grossmont finished the season on a six-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep in the double-elimination semifinal bracket.

For the Foothillers, it may have felt like ‘it’s about time,’ as nine of their 12 titles have come in the last 17 years, making the three-year title-hiatus feel like a drought.

The title also brought a cheer from a ranking Grossmont High-bred major leaguer in up-and-coming Astros’ star JOE MUSGROVE.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *