East County Sports

Hillers look in mirror, belt homers


Photo by Taylor Baez

By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

FLETCHER HILLS — The Grossmont Foothillers might be a stereotypical, home run-hitting ballclub, although there are times club management wishes it wasn’t true.

Then again, there are times the Hillers enjoy hitting bombs to come to the rescue.

With Madison High just two outs away from the championship of the annual season-opening Aztec-Foothiller Tournament, Grossmont’s Jose Carranza slugged a 3-run, game-tying homer, as the Hillers went on to defend their crown in a stunning 9-8 victory in 8 innings over the Warhawks.

River Diaz De Leon also belted a pair of long-balls, but the game-winning hit came in an unusual fashion for any ball hit at Gizoni Field. The cozy ballpark yielded a rare triple off the bat of Noah Barnes, creating a mob scene at home plate.

“I definitely have to give big props to River and Jose for their big-time home runs,” said Barnes. “Madison is definitely a solid team this year and this was a big win for us.”

Since throwing fastballs at “The G” is risky at times, Barnes was looking for a different pitch.”

Photo by Taylor Baez

“I had a 1-0 count,” Barnes recalled. “I got started with slider, then he came back with a fastball low and away.”

It wasn’t just home runs that kept the excitement level high-pitched all afternoon. It was when they occurred, as key blasts filled the sky.

Grossmont opened the scoring on a 3-run blast by Diaz De Leon in the first.

Like a poker game, Madison called, then raised. After third baseman Maddox Haley countered his own 3-run, right fielder Gavin Lass made it consecutive homer as the Warhawks tallied fice times in the third.

The barrage of long balls continued in the fifth. Diaz De Leon lifted a solo shot to draw even at 5-all.

But ewhenMadision was gifted three unearned runs on an error and a 2-run double from Watson in the sixth, Madison would just need six more outs.

They never came.

“I just kept that same approach of hitting the ball where it’s pitched and staying relaxed until it’s time to unload,” he said.

Also being a pitcher, Diaz De Leon enjoys a symbiotic relationship when at the plate.

“One thing that helps me a lot is thinking, ‘dance with the pitcher’” he noted. “My coach told me this a while ago, meaning to have a stride or load that’s the same tempo as the pitcher.”

“For the first bomb, I sat fastball in hitter’s count and adjust in a pitcher’s count. For my second bomb I saw that the pitcher was, repeatedly, throwing curves — especially first pitch — so I sat curve and got a hanger to punish.”

Grossmont can match last season’s 6-game win streak to open the campaign when the Hillers host Scripps Ranch on Monday in a make-up of an earlier rain-out..

For Madison (4-1), left fielder Dante Valia, the No. 9 batter, went 2-for-2 with a double and a walk.

Photo by Taylor Baez


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