High School Sports
Column

Alex McKenna believes baseball is his way to athletic success

Eric Sondheimer
Contact ReporterVarsity Times Insider
Alemany High's Alex McKenna is focused on baseball

College football's loss could be major league baseball's gain in the unfolding story involving Alex McKenna of Mission Hills Alemany High.

Two years ago, McKenna gave up trying to be a quarterback after deciding baseball offered his best chance for athletic success and longevity.

Based on what he has accomplished in the opening month of his senior season, McKenna has put himself in position to have options this summer, when he'll have to decide whether to proceed to Cal Poly or sign with a pro team.

"He can beat you with his legs, arm and bat," Alemany Coach Randy Thompson said.

In other words, he's a real five-tool player with a 4.1 grade-point average and good size at 6 feet 2 and 195 pounds. He's batting .488 with six doubles, a triple and home run.

"He has a pro body and God blessed him with tremendous athletic ability," Thompson said.

McKenna is set to be challenged at this week's Boras Classic, where Alemany (11-2) will open the 16-team tournament on Tuesday against Palm Desert at noon at JSerra.

"With the good pitching, it's going to be a good test to see where I am, and I'm hoping to go there and make a statement," he said.

After playing football his freshman and sophomore years, McKenna came to a conclusion about his future.

"It was a decision where it came down to where I saw myself going as an athlete," he said. "I think I could have played either one and been successful, but longevity wise, I think baseball was better for me."

He put on 15 pounds in the last year and added to his strength. You can see his athleticism with his speed on the bases and his arm strength throwing out runners trying to score from second base. Pro scouts started coming around in increasing numbers during fall and winter ball when he had a streak of hitting six home runs in eight games.

He said playing football helped him immensely.

"I've learned to lift hard in the weight room, and it's a big part of who you are as an athlete, being a physical guy," he said.

He'll evaluate where he's taken in the baseball amateur draft and what kind of financial commitment is made.

"Whatever happens, it's a win-win situation," he said.

Early-season success

There's lots of players off to terrific starts.

Cooper Gallion, a junior outfielder at Redondo, is batting .432 with 29 runs batted in and nine doubles.

The No. 1 freshman in Southern California is Corona Santiago shortstop Brice Turang, who's batting .550 with an astounding 33 hits.

Left-hander Soren Yarnall of Santa Ana Foothill is 4-1 with a 1.05 ERA.

Stanford-bound Tristan Beck of Corona is 4-0 with an 0.29 ERA and is batting .583.

Jayson Newman of Woodland Hills Taft has hit nine home runs. Junior Eric Yang of Woodland Hills El Camino Real is batting .444.

Left-hander Johnny Vergara of L.A. Marshall has thrown four consecutive shutouts and is 5-1 with an 0.89 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 47 innings.

Left-hander Patrick Sandoval of Mission Viejo has emerged as the top pitcher in Orange County. He's 4-1 with an 0.55 ERA.

Catcher Lucas Herbert of San Clemente is batting .400 with seven doubles as one of the most dangerous leadoff batters in the Southland.

Junior pitcher Holden Groff of Loyola is 4-1 with an 0.78 ERA. He knows all about speed, because his father is former Indy car driver Mike Groff.

Long Beach Wilson catcher Chris Betts has hit five home runs.

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