Baseball Notebook: Citrus Valley inches closer to CBL crown – Press-Enterprise

When Citrus Valley coach Daren Espinoza took the Citrus Valley coaching job after 15 years at Rialto High, he brought with him a healthy appreciation of the difficulties of competing in the Citrus Belt League.

Espinoza said he didn’t come to coach Citrus Valley to be one of the other good teams, he wanted to be “that” team.

Now, three years later, Espinoza and the Blackhawks are closing in on their first league championship since 2014.

And, the manner in which they’ve played this season has indicated the Blackhawks are ready to take their program to the next level.

“If you want that represent (in the CBL) you have to take it from them,” said Espinoza. “We beat Yucaipa last Thursday and clinched playoff spot.

“I told our guys when the regular season is over, we need to have practice the next day. If we pull league out, it would be icing on the cake.”

And, with the quality performances Espinoza is getting from his players, the sky’s the limit for Citrus Valley.

“What’s really the key is offensive numbers, because feel like we can score every inning,” said Espinoza. “But in reality pitching and defensive play is very important. Pitchers have to pound strike zone and we need to play error-free baseball.”

From seniors, pitchers Tristan Workman (6-0, 1.05 earned-reun average), Chaz McWilliams (5-1, 2.38 ERA) and Dylan Farris (5-0, 1.64 ERA), and hitters Matt Glover (.414. 22 runs, 14 RBI), Austin Warner (.412, 15 runs, 14 RBI), the Blackhawks are outscoring league opponents 68-18 through 10 games.

“If you want to do really well, you have to be dialed in and focused on baseball,” said Espinoza. “Our kids are pretty mature and they get it. It’s all about the team and its really neat when you get that.”

Top-Tier Tilt

Last Saturday, Vista Murrieta and Corona, two of the top baseball programs in the Inland area, took a break from their respective league schedules to play a non-league game.

Neither program wanting to give an inch in the game, the host Broncos pulled off a 3-2 victory over the Panthers in 14 innings.

The game, which started at 11 a.m., took so long, the Panthers had to rush back to Corona so that the players could get showered up in time for Prom.

“It took the life out me,” said Corona coach Andy Wise. “The fact we had a game on the day as prom is completely on me. No excuses its my fault.”

Despite a solid six and two-thirds innings of work, Ricky Ramirez eventually yielded the game-winning run to end the marathon.

“I think offensively, were better than we’ve ever been,” said Moisello. “Some years we have hitters in the top six spots in the linfup. This year we’ve got hitters from 1 to 9 in the lineup.

“Hopefully we have it all there and can put it together going forward.”

Although Vista Murrieta has nearly clinched the Southwestern League championship, Corona is in a dog fight in the Big VIII with five of six team still in the running for a league title and/or playoff berth.

“It’s not ideal but we’re still in it,” said Corona coach Andy Wise. ” We need to beat King twice this week then at least split with Santiago to have a chance at the Big VIII League championship.

Pride of the Braves

If you ask Norte Vista’s baseball coach why the Braves are in the mix for a playoff spot for the first time in five years, first-year manager will tell you its all because of senior outfielder Cesar Jauregui.

A standout on his roster, coach Jason Klug can’t talk enough about what Jauregui’s leadership, hitting and sparkling field play have mean’t to the Braves this season.

“He’s a very vocal leader,” said Klug, a fifth year teacher at Norte Vista, who took the baseball job after former coach Justin Solis stepped down. “He leads by action and gets guys pumped up. He’s a great kid and is always doing the right thing.

“He’s the most coachable kid I’ve had.”

Last season, Jauregui flirted with hitting .500, batting .489 with 10 doubles, 14 runs batted in and 25 runs scored.

This season, Jauregui is batting .475 with 13 stolen bases and 15 runs scored, while leading the Braves to potentially their best season in years.

“He’s definitely one of the hardest working player I’ve had,” said Klug, who noted Jauregui has already been accepted to Cal State Fullerton and is awaiting confirmation of admittance to Cal Poly Pomona.

The Braves, 9-11 overall, 5-6 in the River Valley League, are on the outside looking in to the playoffs, but Klug is confident the playoffs are within reach.

“Two games out with four games left,” said Klug. “If we can pull it off – take two from La Sierra this week and one from Ramona next week, we have a chance to slide in to the playoffs. For a team that hasn’t been in playoffs in five years it could be quite an accomplishment.”

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