By Rick Assad
A baseball season unlike any other in Burroughs High history was capped off last Friday at the all-purpose room adjacent to the main gym when the team received their CIF Southern Section Division V championship rings.
Nearly every player was there to celebrate the moment, and some even came from as far away as Iowa.
The team was also recognized after the third quarter of that night’s Burbank versus Burroughs football game.
Matt Magallon, the Bears coach, and Mitch Kellogg, an assistant, were there and beaming from ear to ear.
“Tonight symbolizes all the hard work they put into that year. This creates a sense of family that can never be changed,” Magallon said of his team that went 23-11 overall, 11-3 in Pacific League play and included a 1-0 thrilling victory over Moreno Valley in the title game at Goodwin Field on the campus of Cal State University Fullerton. “The bonds and the battles that we went through to earn these rings is something that, unfortunately, no other team in this school has gone through and that’s why this team will probably be immortal in the baseball program.”
Magallon and his staff’s goal is to put together a winning product on the field and see his players play college baseball if they so choose.
“We have a culture that the players have bought into 100 percent. These players understand that if they work hard, the coaching staff is going to work hard and get them to the next level,” he said. “I think we’ve had more kids get college scholarships than any team in the Pacific League, so that’s something all our coaches work really try to do, and I think the boys have really, truly bought into the culture in how we do things.”
Catcher Mason Medina, who is at Cal State University San Marcos, was clutch behind the plate and in the batter’s box for the Bears.
It was Medina’s opposite-field base hit to right field in the fourth inning that scored pinch-runner Dylan Conahan with the winning run.
“I haven’t seen everyone in a long time so it’s good to see them, especially coach Matt,” he said. “The work ethic is there. We practice winning. Our mentality was we weren’t going to lose, and we won. There’s nothing much to it. It feels great. I just hope these guys keep up the legacy.”
Pitcher Devan McGivern plays at Morningside University in Sioux City, Iowa, and made the trip from the Midwest.
“I think what we’re doing tonight is very special for our team and our coaches and our parents and everyone in the community because it was historical, and I think it’s really nice to congratulate that and to celebrate that,” he said.
McGivern said he saw something truly special in that talented and focused team and was grateful to be a part of it.
“Of course, it’s a dream come true, but we also knew during the season that we wanted to win the league, but we also thought about the playoffs, and we looked at the teams we were playing, and we thought, “why not us?” he said. “Towards the end of the year, we caught a little heater, and we started playing really, really well and everything we practiced all year really came together in the last month of the season.”
Nick Forrest, who was named Pacific League Player of the Year, received a special bat for the honor and was thrilled to get his ring.
“It really means a lot and we worked really hard for this,” he said. “We got together as a just thrown together team and to win this championship means tons. Everybody on this team worked really hard for this.”
Forrest, who was a junior and Gunnar Nichols, the winning pitcher in the championship game and a freshman hurler at Pepperdine University, were stellar on the hill.
“Gunnar and I, we’d go back and forth every other game and we’d pitch our hearts out,” he said. “It took a lot of drive in order to win every game, and of course, there is always that thought in the back of our mind that we were going to lose, but we have talent, and we pushed through.”
Third baseman Andrew Chapman was a leader on the diamond and had a notion that this was a talented group.
“I saw it from the beginning. We all were really close. The years before we weren’t as close,” he noted. “This year we would go out to lunch together, we would hang out together, we were almost as one as a family.”
Chapman went on: “I didn’t say I didn’t see it coming, but I knew we were going to do something special,” he said. “It’s amazing to get this ring and to be able to see some of the guys because I haven’t seen them in a while because of college. It’s awesome to do all that.”
The members of the squad include Forrest, Wyatt Augenstein, Conahan, Mason Mahay, Jarell Bijasa, Zackary Freck, Nate Chapman, Steven Suarez, Thomas Vournas, Sebastian Zamora, Kenny Montgomery, Lim Cebellos, Chapman, Vasista Dhyasani, Medina, McGivern, Lukas Beltran, Brayden Sibley-Ackerman, Bailey Ewan, Christian Romero, Ryan Meza and Nichols.