By Rick Assad
On an extremely hot afternoon at jammed-packed Tomahawk Field, it seemed as though every player who played contributed something on the diamond for the Burroughs High baseball team.
Whether it was with a bat in their hands or on the mound, the Bears used it all to their advantage and claimed a 5-2 win on Friday over Nogales in a CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinal game.
Burroughs (20-10 and 11-3 for second place in the Pacific League) has an appointment next Tuesday versus Tustin (20-10 and 6-4 for third in the Empire League) at 3:15 p.m. in a semifinal match and if it wins that game, will reach the championship match.
“One thing about this team and we’re really proud of is, they’re just a tight group. One mistake doesn’t change the outcome of the game. It doesn’t even faze them,” Burroughs coach Matt Magallon said. “Runners on third base a couple innings but he [Gunnar Nichols] would just shut the door. Gunnar does what he does. Gunnar’s a stud, but right after him we have senior [Devan] McGivern, he’s a committed guy. We have [Sebastian] Zamora. We have endless guys that we can throw out there, which is what we’re going to need if we’re going to win this whole thing.”
Front and center stood Nichols, a senior right-hander who kept the Nobles’ hitters off balance for much of the contest.
Nichols, who will be playing for Pepperdine, threw off-speed pitches when needed and delivered fastballs, and the combination of the two accounted for 10 strikeouts across seven innings.
“That seventh inning I was exhausted. It was really all adrenaline, and I was just thinking I want to finish this game and win it for the team,” Nichols admitted afterward. “If we keep playing how we’re playing, I think we can win.”
Nichols yielded eight hits with one hit batter and surrendered one walk which came in the seventh inning to senior Nathan Camonte, who took second on an infield hit by sophomore Ivan Flores (two hits) and third base on a single to left field by senior Joey Ruelas (two hits).
Camonte scored on a fielder’s choice by senior Alonzo Salgado (two hits).
Matters became a bit tense in the seventh, but Nichols escaped serious damage as he induced senior Daniel Avena to line to right field for the final out.
Zamora (two hits), a junior, accounted for three runs batted in, sophomore Nate Chapman also drove in a run on a sacrifice fly and added a single in the third while senior Mason Medina chipped in with a run-scoring single.
“It’s a battle every game no matter who we’re playing. I’m going in there like it’s the best team on the planet and go out there and beat them,” said Medina, a catcher and the undisputed field and clubhouse leader. “I take it one step at a time because I feel like I have a lot of time. I take a deep breath. I make sure everything’s alright on the mound for all the pitchers.”
The Bears, who have won nine of their last 10 games, never trailed after taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning as senior Andrew Chapman was hit by a pitch from senior Daniel Avena, who went six innings, allowing eight hits with three hit batters, three strikeouts and one walk, with one out.
Chapman stole second base and raced to third base on a grounder from Zamora. When Medina clubbed a single up the middle, the Bears led 1-0.
Burroughs scored two runs on three hits in the third inning as six batters came to the plate. Nate Chapman was safe on an infield hit and Andrew Chapman was nicked with a pitch.
Each runner swiped a base to put them at second and third base respectively and scored on a two-run single down the right-field line by Zamora that gave the Bears a 3-0 cushion.
“That hit is the key to the ball game because we double steal the pitch before,” Magallon said. “Our coaching staff, they’ve all college and pro guys. They’re so on top of things, but that was Mitch Kellogg.”
The onslaught continued in the fourth inning for Burroughs as seven batters found their way to the dish.
Nate Chapman’s sacrifice fly to right field extended the Bears’ advantage to 4-0 and when Zamora was safe on an infield hit, the lead swelled to 5-0.
Nogales (22-8 and 10-0 and first place in the Montview League) is a good hitting team and bounced back with a run in the fifth inning as Flores smacked a two-out, hard-hit triple to left center and scored on an error that trimmed the Bears’ lead to 5-1.
Junior Steven Suarez singled in the third inning and doubled in the sixth for the Bears, junior Jarell Bijasa singled with two out in the fifth inning and sophomore Mason Mahay singled in the fourth inning.