ORANGE COUNTY BASEBALL PREVIEW 2024
Orange Lutheran coach Eric Borba has filled his lineup cards with many mighty batting orders in his 15 previous seasons with the Lancers.
This season’s lineup card might be the most formidable yet.
“Our lineup is deeper than it’s ever been, 1 through 9,” Borba said.
Orange Lutheran, a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinalist last season, has sent more than 60 players to NCAA Division I and professional baseball, so that’s quite a statement.
This year’s Lancers have 12 players who have committed to or signed with Division I college baseball programs. Eight of them are hitters.
Senior outfielder Derek Curiel, who batted .358 with team highs of eight doubles and 15 stolen bases in 2023, signed with LSU. Also an MLB Draft prospect, Curiel was named All-CIF-SS Division 1 and All-Orange County second team.
Junior outfielder Josiah Hartshorn was Trinity League Rookie of the Year last season. He led the Lancers in RBIs with 24 in 33 games. Hartshorn is committed to Texas A&M.
The Lancers have experienced pitchers in senior right-handers Ross Clark and Brady Strohm and junior righty Colt Peterson. Peterson committed to Stanford.
Borba is intrigued by the potential of 6-foot-5 sophomore right-hander Gary Morse.
“I like our team,” Borba said. “We have a lot of depth and a great combination of youth and senior leadership.”
Borba said Orange Lutheran’s schedule could be the most-challenging itinerary any Orange County team has undertaken. The Lancers start the season Saturday in the Prep Baseball Report California Spring Invitational at Great Park in Irvine.
They have nonleague home games at Hart Park in Orange against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and Cypress, a nonleague game at Huntington Beach, and a return to North Carolina for the National High School Invitational. Orange Lutheran has won that event three times.
AROUND THE COUNTY
• One-way electronic communication from the dugout to the catcher now is allowed for calling pitches in high school baseball. The communication hookup can only be from coach to catcher, and the coach must be in the dugout for the communication. …
• CIF-SS baseball preseason polls, as selected by the CIF-SS Baseball Committee, have Servite at No. 1 in Division 2 and Savanna at No. 1 in Division 6. Orange County teams in the Division 1 top 10 are No. 3 JSerra, No. 4 Orange Lutheran, No. 5 Huntington Beach, No. 7 Santa Margarita, No. 8 Cypress and No. 10 Mater Dei. …
• The Prep Baseball Report California Spring Invitational, a 16-team tournament at Great Park that starts Saturday and concludes Feb. 20, includes county top 10 teams Cypress, Huntington Beach, JSerra, Huntington Beach and Orange Lutheran. The tournament includes top two teams in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 preseason rankings: No. 1 Corona and No. 2 Harvard-Westlake. …
• The Boras Classic, which will be held April 2-5 at JSerra and Mater Dei, has the host schools in it and Corona, Huntington Beach and La Mirada. …
• Many county teams will have a chance play a game at Angel Stadium this season, starting with Los Alamitos vs. Whittier La Serna on March 7. …
• The Loara Tournament is Feb. 17-24. …
The Anaheim Lions Tournament goes from March 2 to April 6, with 56 teams including many out-of-state teams involved. …
BASEBALL PRESEASON TOP 10
1. Orange Lutheran: Lancers coach Eric Borba sees a strong combination of skillful youth and senior leadership in the program. Senior outfielder Derek Curiel was All-Orange County second team and All-CIF-SS last year. Senior right-handed pitchers Ross Clark and Brady Strohm combined for 45 varsity innings last season. The Lancers reached the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals last season.
2. Huntington Beach: The Oilers are young in several areas but talented enough to repeat as Surf League champions. Coach Benji Medure said he has several NCAA Division I prospect pitchers on hand including all-league senior right-hander Nathan Aceves. Junior infielder/pitcher Linkin Garcia, all-league first team last year, committed to Vanderbilt.
3. JSerra: Senior right-hander Matt Champion has signed with LSU and leads a deep pitching staff for the Lions, who last season won their second consecutive CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship. Sophomores Marcus Greis and Josh Hollis, who committed to Texas Christian and Oregon, respectively, will be among the leaders on the mound. Junior shortstop Tyler Dunning committed to UCLA.
4. Santa Margarita: The Eagles have four experienced pitchers back from last year’s team that won the CIF Southern California Regional Division I championship and played in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 final. Hayden George, a junior, was the starting pitcher in the regional final and had 29 strikeouts in 25 innings in the Trinity League.
5. Cypress: The Centurions have only one returning starter back, but he’s a great one. Senior catcher/first baseman Nick Montgomery, who was All-County second team and All-CIF-SS last season, has appeared on some All-American lists. Veteran coach John Weber expects the pitching staff to be led by junior left-hander Wyatt Rosales who threw 32 varsity innings in 2023.
6. Mater Dei: The Monarchs are loaded with many returnees from last year’s team that swept JSerra in their three Trinity League games. Among the returnees is sophomore outfielder Ezekiel Lara, who was all-league first team and All-CIF last season. Junior right-handed pitcher Landon Gordon, who committed to USC, was all-league first team in 2023.
7. Foothill: Knight’s fourth-year coach Chris Price said this year’s pitching staff is the deepest of his tenure. Senior outfielder/pitcher Garrett Davidson, who signed with UC San Diego, is a three-year starter. University of San Diego-bound senior Bryan Harbor will pitch and play first base.
8. San Juan Hills: Stallions coach Brett Levier expects pitching talent and depth, along with senior leadership, to have the team competing for the Sea View League championship after last year’s 12-16 finish. Senior right-handed pitcher Austin Plisinski, all-league second team last season, signed with Pepperdine.
9. El Dorado: Pitching will the strength of the Golden Hawks, who Coach Matt Lucas expects to improve markedly as the season progresses. Senior right-hander AJ Fauston was All-Crestview League first team last season and has signed with the University of San Diego. Catcher/first baseman Brady Abner was all-league first team last season as a freshman.
10. Canyon: Five starters return to the team that won the CIF-SS Division 4 championship last season. Included in the group is 2023 Division 4 player of the year Cohen Gomez, a senior pitcher/first baseman who also was All-County second team and the North Hills League MVP. Pitcher/outfielder Austin Duarte is another All-CIF returnee.
TOP 10 PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nathan Aceves, Huntington Beach, Sr., P: He was All-Surf League first team last season when he posted a 1.03 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 47.2 innings. Aceves is the ace of what looks to be a deep Oilers pitching staff. He signed with UC Santa Barbara.
Matt Champion, JSerra, Sr., P: He was All-Orange County first team last season and All-CIF Southern Section for the CIF-SS Division 1 champion Lions. Champion was 8-1 with a 1.65 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. He signed with LSU.
Derek Curiel, Orange Lutheran, Sr., OF: Curiel was All-CIF-SS Division 1 and All-County second team last season when he batted .358 with eight doubles and a team-high 15 stolen bases. He signed with LSU.
Jared Day, La Habra, Sr., P: He was All-CIF Division 4 last season and was the Freeway League pitcher of the year. Day was 6-3 with a 1.27 ERA and opposing teams batted .186 against him. He had 62 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched. He signed with Hawaii Pacific.
Logan de Groot, Santa Margarita, Sr., OF: A UCLA signee, de Groot was All-County second team last season when he batted .330 with 15 RBIs and 23 runs scored as the Eagles won the CIF Southern California Regional Division I championship.
Cohen Gomez, Canyon, Sr. P: Gomez was All-County second team last season and was the CIF-SS Division 4 player of the year as Canyon won the Division 4 championship. He was 8-3 with a 1.16 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 60 innings, and batted .347 with five home runs and 26 RBIs. Gomez signed with Stanford.
Josiah Hartshorn, Orange Lutheran, Jr., OF: He had a team-high 24 RBIs in 33 games, was second on the team in hits with 20. He committed to Texas A&M.
Ezekiel Lara, Mater Dei, So, OF: He was All-CIF-SS Division 2 and All-Trinity League first team last year. Lara batted .368 with an OPS of .819. He is uncommitted.
Nick Montgomery, Cypress, Sr., C/1B: Montgomery (6-4, 210) was All-CIF Division l and All-County second team last season. He signed with Arizona State and is considered a potential early-round selection in the MLB Draft.
Jarett Sabol, Aliso Niguel, Jr., C: Sabol was All-CIF-SS last season for the CIF-SS Division 3 champion Wolverines and was All-County second team. He had two hits in the Division 3 championship win over San Marcos. Sabol committed to USC.