Keepin’ the Ball Rollin’

The Grossmont Griffin baseball team has won 14 of their last 16 games and look to end the month of March by continuing their success in an upcoming series against San Diego Mesa College.

In game one of the San Diego Mesa series, team leader in home runs David Maldonado, sent his fifth homer of the year over the fence.

The Griffins must have brought the same bats from their last series against Mt. San Jacinto, as they ended the day with 16 hits and 15 runs. The Griffins are currently averaging a little over nine runs a game.

Some notable performances were from Maldonado who had a three-hit, two-RBI day accompanied by third baseman Justen Burkey who had three hits himself. Outfielder Cabot Van Til had a three-RBI day as well. Van Til has an outstanding .436 batting average on the year.

On the mound, there was a lot left to be desired from pitcher Tim Holdagrafer who gave up five earned runs over five innings. Coach Abshier sent his trusted bullpen piece in Hayden Shenefield to the mound to shut the door.

Shenefield earned the win in game one, striking out two batters in just one inning. Javier De la Torre held his own in his relief outing, knocking down his ERA to a minuscule 1.89.

Griffins win game one 15-7.

There was more of the same in game two for the Griffins. Grossmont had 17 runs, five runs because of two Noah Strohl moonshot home runs.

Maldonado served up another three-hit performance and swiped his team-leading 14th stolen base of the year. Van Til and Burkey both had multi-hit games as well.

Starting on the bump for the Griffins was Andrew Mitchel who was forced to leave the game after two and a thirds innings after giving up three runs. Luckily, Mitchel had the arms of Corey Johnson and Shenefield to rely on as they pitched their way to the win.

Grossmont beat San Diego Mesa to win the rubber match 17-5.

Coach Abshier and pitcher Donavon McCrystal reached into the supply closet and brought out their brooms, looking to sweep the competition away once again.

Mesa jumped on McCrystal early, striking for four runs in the first inning. But as McCrystal kept fighting inning by inning, his teammates kept crawling back, tacking on a run every other inning until it was all tied up 4-4 in the seventh.

The team’s anchor, Justen Burkey, did his job by getting on base for his teammates to knock him in. Burkey would have a three-hit day and account for two of his teams runs.

Once in the eighth inning, Trevor Beard doubled down the right field line to send Sean Crosby and Burkey across the plate. Beard eventually scored himself, giving reliever De la Torre some much needed insurance runs. De la Torre earned his third save of the year by shitting out Mesa for two no-hit innings.

McCrystal got his sixth win of the season in the process and the Griffins are now riding a four-game winning streak after defeating San Diego Mesa 7-4.

The next contest for the Grossmont Griffins is against rival San Diego City. Grossmont will host two of the games in the series on Tuesday and Friday.

AL West End of Season Predictions

I firmly believe this is the Mariner’s year they take over. They have arguably one of the best infields in the whole league featuring star second baseman, Robinson Cano and slugger Nelson Cruz. Along with that, the Mariners made one of the best free agency moves, bringing in outfielder Jarrod Dyson to add some speed to the lineup. The Mariner’s problem hasn’t been whether or not they can get runs on the board, but if they can prevent them. With King Felix and Iwakuma leading the way, I think their starting 5 is posed for quite the year in 2017 including flamethrower James Paxton and an offseason acquisition in the talents of Yovani Gallardo. The bats in the Mariners lineup are too much for any team in the West to handle.

Competing for the second place spot are the Texas Rangers and Astros. The Rangers seem to have some C+ pitching like they always do. Cole Hamels is getting too old and I think this is the year that he implodes. Darvish is going to be above average and A.J. Griffin will be a solid 4 man. The Rangers have a nice bullpen in the works headlined by Jeremy Jeffress and Matt Bush. Texas has a solid middle infield combo with the likes of veteran Elvis Andrus and haymaker-throwing Rougned Odor. Along with the Mariners, there will be a lot of home run balls put over the fence. Bringing in the former Indian, Mike Napoli for his third stint with the team was a great move by the Rangers front office. With his postseason experience, Napoli is guaranteed to provide 20+ home runs by the end of the year. Jonathan Lucroy with his 2016 all-star talents will be continuing his success into 2017 as well.

Although the Astros had some shortcomings in 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are in the mix in September. They addressed those shortcomings this offseason with the signings of Josh Reddick and veteran catcher Brian McCann. The Astros ace, Dallas Kuechel had a surprisingly rough season in 2016 after winning the AL Cy Young in 2015. I don’t expect for this to continue. I hope Kuechel returns to his ace status and proves he’s no joke. An infield led by the speedy, three-time Silver Slugger Jose Altuve still maintains its young components, including rising star shortstop Carlos Correa who put on a show for team Puerto Rico in the WBC. Along with the star-studded double play combo is the power hitting centerfielder, George Springer. In the prime of his career, Springer is ready to produce another 25+ homer season. If the Astros aren’t in the running for the division title this year, they sure as hell will be in years to come.

It will be an offensive showdown between these three teams at the top of the West.

The final two spots in the the West are a crapshoot.

The Angels don’t have the pitching depth to be in consideration of the division title. Besides Garrett Richards, the star power declines rapidly from the 2-5 spots. The lackluster bullpen isn’t doing the Angels any favors either.

However on the offensive side of the ball, the Angels can hang with the M’s and Rangers. Having the best player in Major League Baseball helps, with the talents of Mike Trout. The Angels have one of the best hitting outfields in baseball. Maybin and Revere with their speed, and Calhoun with the bat in his hands all provide sustainability. The Angel infield also can mash with their power hitting second baseman, Danny Espinosa and the .280-.300 hitters of Yunel Escobar and Andrelton Simmons.

I don’t know if the A’s have what it takes to win to 90 games or even 80 games. The front office for the A’s seemed to be sleeping this offseason. The A’s have the youngest and most inexperienced starting 5 in the division and their bullpen is lacking a large amount of talent. Their lineup is nothing special. There’s no way the A’s will be making the playoffs this year, sadly. It looks to be a competition for third place for the A’s and if they want to take something good away from 2017, I’d say shoot for a .500 record.

Here’s my end of season AL West standings:

  1. Mariners (98 – 64)
  2. Rangers (95 – 67)
  3. Astros (92 – 70)
  4. Angels (81 – 81)
  5. Athletics (77 – 85)

I have the Rangers clinching a wild card spot in the AL.

What I Expect From the A’s Infield This Year

Headlined by the 2016 free agent acquisition of long-time Minnesota Twin, Trevor Plouffe, and the youngster, Ryon Healy, the Oakland Athletics 2017 infield components are stunningly average.

One of the most questioned moves this offseason was the one-year pick up of 30-year-old Trevor Plouffe when they A’s already had a promising third baseman in the works with Ryon Healy. This is another circumstance when the platooning system will be coming into play.

Plouffe is coming off of an injury-riddled season, playing in only 84 games in 2016 while displaying poor defense. This will not bode well with the already erroneous Athletics infield.

With this move, it’s expected that Healy, Alonso and Plouffe will all be interchangeable pieces at 3B, 1B and the DH positions.

Plouffe will be filling in for Mariners signee, Danny Valencia who fared pretty well at the plate, ending last year with a .287 batting average and 17 dingers. If the A’s are looking to surprise people this year, Plouffe will need to have a career year and pound out 20+ home runs. Plouffe puts up low-caliber numbers on defense with a .958 career fielding percentage. Not the defensive prowess you’d like to see at the hot corner.

Plouffe will most likely be hitting anywhere from 3-7 in the lineup.

2017 season line for Trevor Plouffe: .264 avg., .330 OBP, 27 HR, 65 RBI

Ryon Healy on the other hand needs to prove that 2016 was no fluke and that he’s the real deal with another breakout season in 2017. Ryon Healy had arguably the best season by any Oakland A last year. In his rookie campaign, Healy hit for a solid .305 batting average and 13 home runs in only 72 games. I expect the Oregon alumni to live up to the hype and take the MLB by surprise once again.

2017 season line for Ryon Healy: .294 avg., .340 OBP, 32 HR, 84 RBI

Making our way to the 6 spot at shortstop we have the limp-mitten Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie. Spending the majority of the time in the first string role is Semien, who is the worst defensive shortstop in the bigs and did not live up to expectations with the bat in his hand, hitting .238. Honestly, you can put up an argument that Semien is the worst shortstop in the majors right now but it should be noted that he sent 27 balls over the fence last year. Dude can’t steal a base either. Literally useless. I get it though, Bay Area kid, has a compelling back story I understand why they would keep him around.

2017 season line for Marcus Semien: .227 avg., 280 OBP, 13 HR, 42 RBI

Hopefully Semien will have to miss some time later on this year and we get to see prospect Franklin Barreto. Earlier this week, Barreto was sent down to Triple-A Nashville. Just 21 years of age, Barreto posses the talent to play both spots of the middle infield. I imagine it was a difficult decision to knock Barreto off the 25-man roster after such an incredible Spring he’s been having, hitting .481 in 16 Cactus League games. Along with the ability to hit the ball, Barreto offers a tool that most Athletics don’t have on this years roster: speed. Barreto at Double-A Midland swiped 30 bags.

However, Barreto has spent limited time at Nashville and I imagine that’s what Beane is waiting to see; if he can succeed at the next level. Most likely the shortstop of the future, Barreto will have to wait till that time comes as Billy Beane has Cleary expressed that Semien is who the A’s will be sticking with. “He only played a month at Triple-A last year. He probably needs some more drills at second base. he seems to be pretty comfortable over there right now. With Marcus at short, it’s probably his quickest path to the big leagues. … Once we get into the season, assuming he continues to improve and play the way he does, he’ll be putting pressure on us,” said Beane.

Looks like Barreto’s path to the bigs will have to be through second base either due to an injury of Semien or Lowrie or by eventual time.

Lowrie is serving as the veteran presence in the Oakland infield with his second tenure and third year on the A’s roster.

Lowrie’s biggest problem is not being able to stay on the field as he hasn’t played in more than 90 games in each of his last two seasons. Getting up there in age, Lowrie’s career is basically done so don’t expect much.

2017 season line for Jed Lowrie: 100 GP, .247 avg., .297 OBP, 10 HR, 28 RBI

Vying for one of the last remaining roster spots is the beloved Adam Rosales. Rosales doesn’t bring much to the table besides his charisma, half-decent speed due to his aging legs and serving as another platoon piece. Rosales has spent each of his last three seasons at every position of the infield besides behind the dish. So far this spring hasn’t been all that great to Rosie, hitting .160 in 25 games.

Later on this year, when the A’s are striving for the 3rd spot in the AL West, I hope to get a better look at Matt Chapman. The 23-year-old, California-born third baseman showed some pop in his bat at Double-A Midland last year with 29 home runs but at the same time had the highest strikeout rate in the Texas League. Seems that not being able to make contact is Chapman’s Achilles heel. It’ll be interesting to see how he improves at Nashville this year, and just maybe he’ll get the call up in September. Just a reminder, there was a third baseman in the A’s farm system about six years ago that had strikeout issues that hindered his call up. He also won the 2015 AL MVP, hitting 41 home runs and 123 RBIs in the process. His name? Josh Donaldson.

Another Oakland youngster is utility man Chad Pinder. Not putting up the greatest numbers this Spring, Pinder, I imagine will be competing as well for one of the final roster spots. Pinder spent some time at the MLB level last year, playing in 51 games and put up some rookie-like numbers with a .235 batting average.

Spending the majority of his time at first base and the DH spot is Yonder Alonso. In what should be the prime of his career, Alonso was nothing special for the A’s last year. For such a big frame, Alonso is more of a contact hitter and works his way on base due to walks. I think this season might be a little different for Alonso. I’m hoping for him to break out of his shell.

2017 season line for Yonder Alonso: .272 avg., .335 OBP, 16 HR, 68 RBI

Oakland’s lone all star last year, and deservedly so, was catcher Stephen Vogt. In the first half of the year Vogt was on a tear, hitting .301. However the last half of his season was not all that glamorous. Entering his final few years as a big leaguer, Vogt will be maintaining the captain role but his play will be less effective as ever.

2017 season line for Stephen Vogt: .247 avg., .299 OBP, 12 HR, 53 RBI

Backing up Vogt will be Josh Phegley who performed exactly how you’d expect someone coming off the bench would. I imagine he’ll be spending a little bit more time behind the plate to give Vogt’s knees a break ever so often.

2017 season line for Josh Phegley: 90 GP, .267 avg., .301 OBP, 5 HR, 17 RBI

Weaknesses: Oakland is lacking a number of solid defenders and that can come back to haunt them as the season goes on. Later on in the season, injuries could become a big factor to a possible A’s failure with both Plouffe and Lowrie spending numerous months on the DL in the past few seasons.

Strengths: There seems to be some very bright, young talent in the works in the farm system and it might be showcased later on in the year.

 

Jasmine Patrick Goes Dancing in the NCAA Tournament

Senior Jasmine Patrick, a former Grossmont Griffin women’s basketball star, is going to the “granddaddy of them all”, “The Big Dance”, the 2017 Women’s NCAA Tournament.

A transfer student to Western Illinois University, Patrick and her basketball team punched their ticket as a #14 seed in the Women’s NCAA Tournament by winning a championship in their respective conference tournament.

The Leathernecks (26-6) and on an 11-game win streak earned The Summit League’s automatic bid by defeating IUPUI in overtime 77-69.

The WIU Leathernecks will face tough competition with the talent of the #3 seed, Florida State Seminoles at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla. This will be the first time ever WIU has faced Florida State in the history of their program.

At Grossmont, she averaged 10.7 points per game and 8.7 rebounds

Look for Patrick to come off the bench and provide a spark for her team.

You can watch Jasmine and her WIU Leatherneck counterparts at 4:30 p.m. PT on ESPN2. The winner will go on to face the winner of the #6 Missouri and #11 South Florida matchup.

An Offensive Explosion

 

Coach Randy Abshier of the Grossmont Griffins (11-5-1) look to keep the ball rolling and extend their six-game winning streak while facing Imperial Valley in a three-game series which started on Tuesday, March 14.

Once you see the box score of game one, you might rub your eyes and not believe what you see. Grossmont sure-handedly put a whooping on Imperial Valley, winning 32-0 with 25 hits. Among the many statistical leaders was first baseman Noah Strohl who came up a double short of the cycle, hitting his third homerun of the year and five RBIs in the process. Centerfielder David Maldonado also had quite the day with six, yes six, RBIs with three hits. A total of 13 hitters for the Griffins had at least one RBI in the “contest” which was helped by a total of five errors made by the Imperial Valley defense.

Pitching wise was just as one sided. Tim Holdgrafer got the start and went five innings with five strikeouts, earning his third win of the year. Multiple relievers came into the game for some extra work thanks to the hefty load of runs put up by the Griffins offense. The Grossmont pitching staff ended game one throwing 13 strikeouts.

Sadly for Imperial Valley, it was more of the same in game two.

The Grossmont Griffins brought out the lumber, winning 17-0. Centerfielder Eric De La Rosa came into pinch hit for Maldonado which resulted in two-run homerun, his second in two games. Maldonado had a homrun himself on Thursday and ended his day with three RBIs.

Led by Andrew Mitchell, the Griffin pitching staff twirled another shutout. Mitchell notched his fourth win of the year and sent five batter back to the bench with a K.

For the series finale, Coach Abshier sent ace Donavon McCrystal to the mound and performed just as expected, tossing six innings and racking up nine strikeouts which was enough to earn himself the win and his team, their third consecutive series sweep.

Shortstop Michael Diffley and right fielder Cabot Van Til had quite the game, each connecting for four base hits each with five RBIs between them.

Now riding an impressive nine-game win streak, the Grossmont Griffins (14-5-1) face Mt. San Jacinto which is their first meeting of the year. The home games in the series will be on Tuesday, March 21 and Saturday, March 25.

Is Baseball Boring?

Hell no it’s not, but Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLB has implemented new rules this spring training and ones that will stand in the MiLB for experimenting reasons and other regulations to be put in play during the regular season.

Rule #1: Major League Baseball plans on testing a rule change in the lowest levels of the minor leagues this season that automatically would place a runner on second base at the start of extra innings, a distinct break from the game’s orthodoxy that nonetheless has wide-ranging support at the highest levels of the league, sources familiar with the plan told Yahoo Sports.

Why this is bad? Here’s a win spoon fed to you by the higher-ups. By doing this you’re basically throwing away the excitement for the fans in extra innings. Baseball lovers hope to see the score tied after the bottom of the 9th inning. Why? Free baseball. Not only that but it basically puts the pitcher in a state of perplexity automatically trotting out to the mound. Here’s a way to work around the rule for MiLB managers: Intentionally walk the next batter you see to get a force out opportunity, or even better a possible ground ball double play. I get it, everybody is in a rush nowadays and people don’t have time to watch a 2 1/2-4 hour baseball game. Well those aren’t the type of people who should be allowed at a ballpark. To hell with them.

Why this is good? Only reason I can come up with is the it’s nice to not burn your whole pitching staff in just one, 17-inning game and have to bring in your left fielder as a reliever. Wait a second, lets back track. Isn’t that one of the most hilarious things to see on a baseball field? What gives you a better laugh on a baseball field than your 3rd string catcher giving up a three-run homer, or better yet, striking out the guy who hit a three-run homer in his last at-bat.

THE LAVALSITI VERDICT: DENIED

Rule #2Just recently, the MLB has announced that instead of throwing 4 pitches outside the strike zone to intentionally put a runner on, the manager will signal towards his man on the mound to put him on.

Why is this bad? It kind of seems pointless if you ask me. It takes three more minutes to lazily throw three more pitches outside the strike zone. Adding to that, there’s been some quacky plays over the last 20 or so years that have resulted from mistakes from intentional walks being either from wild pitches or or the classic Miggy move of steeping out of the batter’s box and pounding a single to the opposite field.

There have been times where intentional talks have rendered some brutal miscues and I don’t think it’s good for baseball to totally rid itself of the four-pitch at-bat, despite the unlikelihood.

Why is this good? Fans get to go home three minutes earlier.

THE LAVALSITI VERDICT: DENIED

Rule #3: The pitch clock. This rule is being put to use in collegiate baseball and in some MiLB leagues, allowing a pitcher only 20 seconds on the mound before he gets the pitch off. It’s obvious that the pace of game is high on Commissioner Rob Manfred’s priority list. “We feel it’s been effective in the minor leagues,’’ Manfred said. “You look month-by-month in terms of where we were in terms of game time, we did really well early and kind of regressed the second half of last year, and certainly this year.” When asked about installing the rule in the MLB he was quick to answer, “I would,’’ he said, “because there’s no temporal assigned to that.”

Why is this bad? This is probably the most significant rule change. You’re tying one of the pitcher’s hands behind his back even before he toes the rubber because his tempo is automatically altered. Baserunners will have an easier time to pick up a pitcher’s timing. Feeling more ruhed out of the ‘pen, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of injuries coming from the MiLB. You’re messing with a pitcher’s tempo. This is just what baseball needed right? More tacky-tack rules to be weary of such as when is the correct time to call “time” while in the batter’s box while the pitcher is in motion. This rule is facing big opposition from the player’s union and for good reason.

Why is this good? Manfred also noted that the amount of time it takes for pitching changes has became ridiculous. “How much time does it take a batter to get into the box? How much time is there between pitches? How much time does it take to effectuate a pitching change?” he said. “There are lots of things around the concept of a pitching change. How quickly does the guy get in from the bullpen? How many warm-up pitches does he need?” Now, this I can agree with. I’ve pretty much memorized Glen Kuiper, play-by-play announcer for the Oakland A’s, sponsorship script of Speedee Oil Change. The hitter is all for this rule change. However, it’s had success in the minors, “The reason I like the clock is not that I’m looking to force somebody to do something, but I think it is a constant reminder of the need to move things along, and I think that’s really important in terms of dealing with the pace-of-play issues,” Manfred told the Daily News. “It’s had great results in the minor leagues. Quantitative data shows that it made the games go faster, but equally important, players don’t complain about it. They get used to it and they work within it.” Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated wrote, “A ball was put in play every 3 minutes, 25,2 seconds–the worst pace ever and up 23.4 seconds from 2006, a 13.3% increase in dead time. The ball was not in play for 30.8% of plate appearances, up from 27.1% from a decade ago.” This is in part due to the increasing number infield shifts, with an expected 28,00 future infield shifts coming season. Just a few years ago, there were only 4,000. Here’s a revelation, if you want to see more base hits and runs being scored, outlaw the infield shift. It’ll let big time hitters such as Robinson Cano, a notorious victim of the shift, have big time performances.

All in all, it’d be a change of about 15 minutes. Those that used the pitch clock rule in the minor league’s had an average game time of about 2 hours and 45 minutes while the MLB averaged just under 3 hours. This rule is inevitable and will most likely be coming soon to ballparks near you, so better get used to it.

THE LAVALSITI VERDICT: INEVITABLE

Nascar, You Suck.

There’s two types of rednecks in this world. One, the simple farming man who provides for his family of four, his golden retriever and all of his livestock. The other? A 320 pound, beer toting, thick mustache-having, loud drunk who enjoys watching cars make countless left turns while letting out a loud, “Yeeeeeeee dawgy!”

The latter was seen in Vegas this past weekend at the 2017 Monster Energy Nascar Cap Series while yelling and spilling his Budweiser while watching a fight between Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.

I don’t know a lot about Nascar or Nascar etiquette but Kyle Busch must be regarded as “the biggest pussy this side of the Mississippi” by Nascar rednecks.

In the second to last lap of the race it looked like Joey Logano bumped Kyle Busch’s car which practically totaled Busch’s car. If you’re going to a Nascar race, isn’t the sole purpose you go is to watch a catstrophe, a multi-car wreck that sets drivers on fire, jumping out of their 4×4 windows with no doors?

Well, Busch took exception to Logano’s move and seeked him out of the crowd to give him a piece of his mind. In the process, Busch had his has set on the ground by Logano’s wingmen, suffered a cut above the brow and had a post-race interview while he was bleeding profusely, sounding like a little bitch.

All Logano said when asked if any punches landed as, “Not on me, brother!”

Wow, I hate Nascar.

Rolling Their Way Through Conference Play

The Grossmont Griffins (8-5), fresh off their three-game sweep of San Bernardino, continued their domination by steam rolling Southwestern this past week.

In game one of the Southwestern series, Pitcher Tim Holdgrafer gave Coach Abshier exactly what he was looking for: another quality start. The freshman phenom Holdgrafer went the distance, allowing one earned run over six innings. In the process, Holdgrafer notched six strikeouts under his belt.

However, Holdgrafer didn’t get the run support he needed and ended his day with a no-decision. Reliever Hayden Sheffield was able to breathe a breath of fresh air after a four-run bottom of the seventh courtesy of a two-RBI double from first baseman Noah Strohl.

The Griffins put the game out of reach in the eighth, tallying another five runs to their total off of five hits and by executing the fundamentals with a sacrifice fly from center fielder David Maldonado and a Jale Sim RBI groundout to the right side of the infield which allowed his man to cross the plate.

The Griffins took game one of the series, winning by an eight-run margin of 9-1. Shenefield earned his first win of the year in the process.

Some more of the same was expected as ace flamethrower, Donavon McCrystal toed the rubber for the rubber match of the three game series. And boy, did McCrystal deliver.

The UNLV commit tossed six and two-thirds innings and gave his team an excellent chance for their tenth win of the year.

Part of the reason McCrystal was so relaxed on the mound was the fact that his newly announced Pacific Coast Athletic Conference of the Week teammate, Robert Bostedt hit a bases-clearing, three-RBI triple in the top of the third inning which rose the Grossmont dugout to their feet, whoopin’ and hollerin’. Just after that, Team Captain Justen Burkey got situated in the batter’s box and pounded a double in the gap to knock Bostedt in. The Griffins led 5-2 after the third inning concluded.

The Griffins would end up continuing their five game winning streak wth their 7-2 victory and McCrystal would tuck another feather in his cap with his third win of the year.

Coach Abshier handed the ball to Buchach Colony High School alumni Andrew Mitchell in hopes that he’d help his team break out the brooms for a second consecutive sweep.

It was a fairly close ball game for most of the game. The Griffins took a 2-0 lead in the third inning delivered by another Strohl double, his fifth of the year.

Trouble arose in the fifth inning for Mitchell and the Griffins as Southwestern took advantage of two errors committed by Mitchell and Strohl. When the top of the fifth inning was all said and done, Southwestern had a 4-2 lead.

But one thing I’ve learned about these Griffins is to never count their bats out and they proved me right once again by responding to the four Southwestern runs with two of their own thanks to two doubles from David Maldonado and second baseman Reece Hernandez, tying the game 4-4 after the fifth. In the bottom of the eighth, Maldonado stepped up to the plate again with the bases loaded and smacked his second double of the game clearing the bases. The game was in the bag for the Grossmont Griffins, winning 8-5.

The Griffins are living up to Coach Abshier’s expectation of another championship, riding a six-game win streak. The Grossmont Griffins (11-5-1) next match up is against Imperial Valley. The home stand in the series will be on Friday, March 17 at 1 p.m.

The Grossmont Griffin Ballclub Has Set Expectations High for 2017

Coach Abshier and the Griffin’s baseball team takes a 7-5-1 record heading into game two of their three-game series against San Bernardino. With the help of Justen Burkey who is sporting a team-leading .348 batting average and Griffin ace, Donavon McCrystal, Abshier expects to “win the championship”, repeating their success from 2016.

Although the accolades of winning coach of the year and a 200 victory career are important to Abshier in his 17-year coaching tenure at Grossmont, that’s not what he takes the most pride in. “What gives me the most satisfaction at Grossmont is seeing my student-athletes move on to the next level. It’s not about my win-loss record at all,” said Abshier. “People would say ‘congrats on your 200th victory!’ The first thing I’d say is that it’s not about me. The student does the work to get out of here. They just make me look good.”

Along the way, Abshier has learned a lot while under former Grossmont College baseball guru, Ed Olsen. Olsen retired at Grossmont at age 71 with a 516-373-7 record which put him as one of the top-10 winningest coaches in community college history. “Olsen used his knowledge as a baseball historian as a means of motivation to get his message across,” said Abshier.

Abshier went on to say the beautiful thing about community college is that “here, we give people second chances and show them the steps they need to get to four-year universities. 97 percent of my ball players at this program receive some sort of financial help to play baseball at the next level. When colleges hear my players go to Grossmont College, they know what they’re getting.” 2016 Coach of the Year, Abshier reiterated the fact it’s not just him, “I have to applaud Grossmont. We have great academics here.”

In Abshier’s coaching career he’s assisted in preparing 22 professional baseball careers and has seen one of his former baseball players, Sean O’Sullivan, blossom into a major-leaguer.

This coming season appears to be a promising one for the Griffin’s ball club. “We’re bringing a lot of the guys back from last year who bring the winning tradition with them. Those sophomores and the leadership they have is one of our biggest strengths. Plus, along with them the freshmen have stepped up,” said Abshier. “By seasons end our goal should be to win a consecutive championship despite losing some players to big time four-year programs.”

One of those players they lost last year to University of Nevada Las Vegas was Alan Strong who just won Mountain West Conference Pitcher of the Week after pitching in a 6-1 win over Cal State Fullerton, the number seven team in the country.

However, so far this season Abshier and his team have had some troubles with weather as the rain has not been kind to them. “We call ourselves road warriors,” Abshier laughed. “We’ve been ran off the field due to all this rain lately and that’s tied our hands behind our back in preparing for this year.”

Despite the weather inconveniences, I wouldn’t read too much into their record. Most of their losses have come in tight, one-run games that could’ve gone either way.

For continued success, “it all starts on the mound” according to Abshier. “What’s key to our success is a strong pitching staff and a solid bullpen. In high school, it’s innings one though seven, but in college it’s seven through nine and that’s where games are won and lost.”

A member of Abshier’s strong starting rotation is sophomore ace, Donavon McCrystal. Last season, McCrystal bolstered an 11-1 record with his only loss coming in the final game of the year and also led the state in a lot of pitching categories. McCrystal has received a scholarship to play at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and will be attending UNLV next year.

McCrystal shares the same expectations with his coach, “Last year we were so close to going to Fresno so that’s got to be on our to-do list along with winning another conference championship.”

“This year our coaches did a good job in mentally preparing us,” McCrystal said when asked how they’ll accomplish their goal.

“This year’s been a little rough,” McCrystal said. “But we’ve won two in a row and I think we are going to keep this winning streak from here on out.”

“But it’s not just on the field where I’ve developed. In the classroom, Grossmont has helped me in becoming a better person,” McCrystal said.

With his 93 mph fastball, McCrystal says his personal goal is to pick up right where he left off and have another undefeated regular season by working even harder for his teammates. McCrystal, leading the team with a 2.83 ERA over 29 innings, says “there’s times when I’ll have two strikes on somebody and I’ll release the ball and already know it’s a strike before it hits the catcher’s mitt.”

On the other side of the ball is sophomore third baseman Justen Burkey who has been tearing the cover off the ball as of late. Early morning on March 3rd, Burkey broke out his finest pen and signed a letter of intent to play for Clark University in Iowa after receiving a scholarship.

Burkey drives from Valley Center to Grossmont to help Abshier’s program and don the Griffin jersey.

Burkey who has committed no fielding errors this season takes pride in his defensive prowess at the “hot corner”.

Carrying on his father’s love for baseball, Burkey gained his inspiration for playing the sport from his dad who passed away when he was young.

“If we can click like last year’s team that ended the regular season on a 13 game win streak we probably won’t lose another game. Last year we were only two games away from going to Fresno and we beat ourselves by committing too many errors,” said Burkey.

For the remainder of the year, Burkey says he’ll go up and compete during every at-bat and help his team in the field work towards a victory.

Grossmont College baseball has set the bar high in terms of expectations and has plans to reach them in Fresno, California in May.

The next home game for Coach Abshier and company is against Southwestern on Friday, March 10 at noon.

What I Expect From the A’s Outfield This Year

Time to speculate Oakland’s revamped outfield including 2016 World Series woulda-been hero, Rajai Davis. Of course, there will be the signature Bob Melvin platoon method of defense.

There’s something, not a lot, but something to be excited about in what’s brewing on newly named Rickey Henderson Field. “Khris Davis brings the pop, while Rajai Davis provides the speed. The 36-year-old veteran remains one of the biggest base-stealing threats in the game, and will likely be counted on to hit at the top of this Oakland lineup. Rajai Davis hit .249/.306/.388 with 12 homers and an AL-leading 43 steals for the Indians last year,” wrote Jane Lee of Mlb.com.

Matt Joyce: Along with the acquisition of Davis, Oakland inked a two-year, 11 million dollar deal with former Pittsburgh Pirate, Matt Joyce. Joyce will bring a lot to the table and will provide a 2012 Seth Smith role playing in about 120 games, but a vital piece of the platoon system thanks to his right handed hitting specialties. Also Seth Smith-like is the fact that he led the MLB in pinch-hit RBI’s and walks. Entering his age 32 season, hopefully Joyce will help average out the A’s defensive runs saved (Oakland finished dead last in the statistic thanks to shitty performances from Marcus Semien and Danny Valencia). Joyce will also help take the load off of Khris Davis in left field. So far this Spring, Joyce has been tearing the cover off the ball with two homerun balls and a .400 batting average.

2017 season line for Matt Joyce: .267 avg., .398 OBP, 19 HR, 60 RBI

Matt Olson: The young buck and No. 15 prospect ranked by MLBPipeline.com, 22-year-old Matt Olson. Despite his MLB performance in 2016, Olson appears to be a very promising piece of the future puzzle. 6’5″ and 230 lbs., Olson last season in AAA Nashville was on pace for a 20 homer year while maintaining a solid .340 OBP. He’ll probably need a few more years to develop but I see Olson getting a better taste of the bigs and spending half the year with Oaktown. Olson already this Spring has made me want to ship his ass back to Tennessee but… ya know… we’ll see. He made a bobbling catch next to the away dugout that ended up being posted by verified social media accounts so that’s cool I guess.

2017 season line for Matt Olson: .256 avg., .334 OBP, 10 HR, 34 RBI

Mark Canha: Canha-get a witness to what he’s been doing so far in Mesa? Canha’s bum hip sent him to season ending surgery in mid-May last year and a comeback season is anticipated. In fact, I’ll guarantee it. He’ll probably be seen for the majority of the time in left field and platooning in at right field, first base, and maybe a little third base. Canha had a really strong coming out party in 2015 and will have a break out season. In fact, I think if Oakland is in the hunt around mid-August, he’s going to be one of the driving reasons.

2017 season line for Mark Canha: .289 avg., .392 OBP, 24 HR, 81 RBI

Rajai Davis: Donning the green and gold again, bringing Rajai back was the best move the Oakland front office made this off-season. The whole team is loving the move to snatch him up, “He brings a lot of experience and excitement to our team and clubhouse and will help add to a good atmosphere. It’s exciting to have a guy that could steal 40-plus bases. I have always thought he was tough to play against, so I’m excited to have him on our side now!” said Stephen Vogt over a text message to the Associated Press. Davis will be a HUGE upgrade in the fielding perspective of centerfield which was occupied last year by minus defenders Billy Burns, Coco Crisp, and Smolinski. Davis last season led the AL in stolen bases with 43 and will fill in the void for the A’s speed who finished 14th in the AL in the category.

2017 season line for Rajai Davis: .261 avg., .314 OBP, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 50 SB

Khris Davis“KHRis” Davis earned his nickname last year with launching 42 homers over the fence, third in the league. This past winter Davis won his arbitration hearing and resulted in the A’s coughing up $5 million. Overall, a good deal for a guy who hit 40+ HR’s the previous year. Davis spent most of his time last year in the DH spot. Expect for more of the same. All good things come to an end however, Davis’ bat will become minute once the AL figures out how the hell he hit in 103 RBI’s.

2017 season line for Khris Davis: .235 avg., .289 OBP, 21 HR, 67 RBI

Alejandro De Aza: I don’t want to read too much into spring training stats because they mean absolutely nothing for the most part (Cowboys reference warning) but this past NFL preseason some guy named Dak Prescott shocked Dallas but annoyed the rest of the United States. De Aza, 32-years-old, has been playing out of his damn mind this Spring and all signs indicate this will be a comeback season. Reality check: De Aza is gonna play in 50 games this year and shit bricks and 2017 will be his last season.

2017 season line for Alejandro De Aza: .227 avg., .293 OBP, 5 HR, 11 RBI

Jake Smolinski: Another run of the mill, .230 a year borderline major league ball player. Claimed off of waivers from Texas, all he’s good for is the providing of depth in case of an injury down in Nashville.

2017 season line for Jake Smolinski: .219 avg., .238 OBP, 3 HR, 13 RBI

Other Platoon Members: Without a doubt Vogt will be floated into right field at some point for a dozen or so games. Newly acquired Plouffe, who we’ll examine next week, I expect to log some innings out in the corner outfield positions. But there’s someone else we’re forgetting to talk about: Jaycob Brugman.

Jaycob Brugman: Brugman has had Melvin salivating and for good reason. “For anybody in our camp to have some versatility, it works to their benefit, but the fact that he plays center field and plays it well helps,” Melvin said. “We don’t have too many guys that play center field naturally.” Brugman lit up the MiLB pitching he saw in his 2016 campaign, hitting .285 with 12 HR and 87 RBI’s between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville last year. Rajai right now is the only centerfielder on the roster that can play the position well. Expect Brugman to spend sometime out there to give Davis some needed days off.

2017 season line for Jacob Brugman: 60 GP, .256 avg., .301 OBP, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 10 SB

It would’ve benefitted Oakland to go out into the free agency market in search of some better depth in the outfield and perhaps find another speedster like Ben Revere, signed by AL West compatriot, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on a one-year, $4 million contract… I’d say that would’ve been do-able even up to M. Beane’s standards. Or hell, bring back Coco. He’s still unsigned and he was a beloved Athletic. He can provide charisma, a .230 batting average, and 30 stolen bases.

The A’s front office just didn’t try this Winter. Not saying that I know it all but… I know it all.