Foothillers, Eagles continue course

2021 EAST COUNTY PREP BASEBALL


By Nick Pellegrino

ECS staff writer

EL CAJON — The countdown to the super-series between the Grossmont and Granite Hills baseball teams is less than 30 days away, yet there are still goals to be achieved prior to the teams’ first scheduled meeting on May 10.

On Monday (Apr. 12), the Bill Dickens Memorial-GMC Tournament opened with play between teams from the Grossmont, Mesa, and City leagues/conferences  — the G.M.C. — is what is fast becoming the second-largest in-season tournament behind the Lions Tournament in the CIF-San Diego Section.

Many of the champions advance to not only capture league championships but also made their way to section championships. And now that the rust of the off-season should be clear, college and professional scouts are flooding ballparks across the region to make the Dickens GMC a true showcase event.

Among East County schools, shutout pitching and key hitting were the words of the day.

Grossmont 1, Cathedral Catholic 0 (9 inn.)

EL CAJON — In a rematch of the last Dickens-GMC Classic Division championship in 2019, the Grossmont Foothillers again came out on top behind the arm of  Evan Vasiliou.

Vasiliou, a senior left-hander, fired six innings of shutout ball, then registered the walk-off winner with a single in the bottom of the eighth to up Grossmont’s (10-1) winning streak to four games. It was the second walk-off hit in a row for Vasiliou.

“It feels great to get another win like this,” Vasiliou said. “Our team played lights-out defensively and our pitching was pretty much on point.”

The senior left-hander allowed just three hits, then a trio of relievers — Ethan Dilgard, Jaden Wilcox, and Chris Chrzan (win) — also kept the Dons off the scoreboard.

The winning run was set up Luke Williams walked, then Reggie Wiliams reached on his bunt which was misplayed for an error. Both runners advanced on a passed ball, then Vasiliou slapped a hard grounder through the infield to left field for the game-winner.

“He threw me a fastball middle-in and I was just trying to put a good swing on it to get the runner home,” Vasiliou said.

Vasiliou and Noah Barnes each recorded two hits from the top of the Grossmont batting card. Cathedral Catholic had several chances but stranded 13 baserunners.

“We are just finding different ways to win games,” Grossmont head coach Jordan Abruzzo said. “Today, it was pitching and defense. Really happy for our guys in this one.”

Two seasons ago — the 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic — the Hillers also came out on top of the Dons, 8-2, in the title game.

Grossmont matches its best start since opening 10-1 in 2010., and bettering the 9-1 Hillers start in 2008. Meanwhile, Cathedral Catholic (3-6) is off to its poorest start since relocating from Linda Vista near the beginning of the century.

Granite Hills 5, Point Loma 0

EL CAJON — Ever since a wake-up call against Carlsbad, little has stopped the Granite Hills Eagles, with consistently strong performances from both the offense and the pitching staff.

In the Eagles’ pool-play opener, both came to prominence.

Senior pitcher Noa Ponciano was hardly touched, striking out eight, and yielded just four hits in his complete-game blanking of Point Loma, 5-0.

Meanwhile, junior first baseman Grant Mac Arthur opened the second inning with a home run.

Mac Arthur, the cleanup batter, was one of four Eagles — the others were Tanner Vielguth, Camden Sos, and Austin Smith — with a two-base hit.

“That was the best we have played as a team all year,” said Smith, who was the Homecoming King, announced at last Friday night’s big football game. “We dominated the whole game and didn’t let off the gas. And Ponce pitched great.”

After Ponciano struck out all three Pointers batters in the second, Mac Arthur led off and promptly sent a 1-1 pitch over the barrier in left field.

“Our pitching is looking really dominant,” Mac Arthur said. “Ponce is having an amazing season. Our defense continues to get better every day thanks to our infield coach Jordan Vina. Hopefully, we can continue this winning streak on Wednesday.”

An inning later, Sos lined an RBI single, then Vielguth elevated a fly ball for a sacrifice fly for a run and a 3-0 cushion.

“When you have a pitcher that competes for every at-bat and limits the runs as Ponce does, it makes hitting more comfortable,” Sos said. “As a hitter, it’s nice knowing you don’t have to put up 10 runs in a ball game to win.”

At one point, Ponciano retired 10 consecutive batters before issuing a walk.

“I was using my whole arsenal since they were a good hitting team,” Ponciano said. “It helped me out when the team put up some runs.”

The lone Point Loma batter to reach third base was shortstop Duce Gourson, who went 2-for-3 with a double and a triple.

Gourson smacked a one-out double in the first, advancing to third on a ground ball, but Ponciano escaped with a strikeout.

Gourson added a one-out triple in the sixth, but a pair of Ponciano punch-outs again stranded the senior at third.

Gourson also made the pivot to complete a first-inning double play for Point Loma (6-4), which earlier defeated El Capitan and Steele Canyon.

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