The Citrus Valley High baseball program is still emerging from the shadow of Yucaipa and Redlands East Valley, longtime powers in the Citrus Belt League.
That is fine with the Blackhawks, a team of gritty achievers who don’t mind the underdog tag.
“We have a chip on our shoulder,” Citrus Valley pitcher / shortstop Blake Griffin said at a practice last week. “We’re underrated in the CBL.”
Blackhawks coach Jon Austin, the former Cajon coach, doesn’t mind the perception.
“Yeah, they have a little chip on their shoulder,” Austin said.
“They’re just starting to believe in who they are as ballplayers.”
The Blackhawks have impressed so far. Through the end of last week, they were 11-2 overall and in first place in CBL with a 4-0 record. They played REV (3-2) twice this week (too late for publication) and meet perennial power Yucaipa (3-1) three times next week.
Citrus Valley second baseman Cy Robertson said the Blackhawks were looking forward to the REV and Yucaipa games. We’ve always been rivals and we know a lot of guys on those teams,” Robertson said. “Beating them would feel good.”
Citrus Valley is led by Griffin, who is 4-0 on the mound with a 2.21 earned run average and 45 strikeouts against only 10 walks. He also hits .333 with nine runs batted in and has signed with Concordia University Irvine.
“I always feel I have to prove myself,” Griffin said. “I’m not the tallest or the strongest player, but I strike out a lot of guys who are hyped up on social media.”
At 6-foot, 185, Griffin is not Randy Johnson in stature, but he throws his fastball in the 88-90 mph range and has touched 91.
The Blackhawks are also led by sophomore outfielder Riley Hunsaker, a USC commit who is hitting .476, Robertson (.467) and catcher Jared Snyder, a 6-2 junior catcher who is hitting .459 with 16 RBI and two home runs.
Griffin is complemented on the mound by sophomore right-hander Jacob Jacome who is 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA and is hitting .300, sophomore right-hander Marc Di Carlo Jr. (1-1, 3.15), senior right-hander Lucas White (2-0, 0.81) and senior right-hander Luis Garcia (1-1, 1.75).
Hunsaker stands 5-10 and is a lean 155 pounds, but says he is not necessarily surprised by his success.
“Yes and no,” he said. “I guess I’m a little surprised at the way I’m hitting, but at the same time I feel like I should play at the level because I have high standards and try to outwork everyone.”
Redlands East Valley High graduate Kim Aiken Jr. has transferred from Eastern Washington University and will play men’s basketball at Washington State next season, according to multiple reports.
Aiken Jr. was the Big Sky’s Defensive Player of the Year. He also averaged 8.4 rebounds per game and 11.4 points.
He had 28 points in a 90-76 win against Montana and took 10 rebounds.
Experts see Phillips as first-rounder Redlands East Valley High graduate Jaelan Phillips was expected to get picked in the first round of the Thursday, April 29, National Football League draft.
The draft runs through Saturday and will be televised on ESPN.
A combined mock draft done by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay had the Indianapolis Colts picking Phillips at No. 21 overall.
“Phillips has a history of injuries — he medically retired from football when he was at UCLA — but there’s no denying his pass-rush traits,” Kiper Jr. said.
“And that’s the Colts’ biggest need.”
Brewers put Nottingham on injured list.
The Milwaukee Brewers reinstated catcher Jacob Nottingham from the 10-day injured list on Thursday, April 22 and designated him for assignment, the Milwaukee Journal reported.
Nottingham, a Redlands High graduate, was placed on the injured list at the end of spring training while recovering from offseason surgery on his left thumb.