If there were a pitcher of the month for March, 6-foot-6 senior left-hander Chris Burica of Orange Lutheran would win in a landslide.
Once 6-6 and 150 pounds, he now weighs 210 pounds, has matured, gained confidence and sometimes looks unbeatable. He threw a two-hitter on Tuesday in the opening round of the Boras Classic, striking out 11 and walking none in a 2-1 victory over Vista Murrieta. He came in with a 3-0 record and 1.27 ERA.
"The jump he's made from this year to last year is off the charts," Coach Eric Borba said of the Creighton signee. "He's not going to beat himself."
Sophomore Zach Lew gave Burica all the runs he would need with a two-run single in the third inning. Lew also had a double in the first. The game ended with Vista Murrieta scoring a run but Orange Lutheran getting the final out on a rundown play.
Brandon Ross pitched well for Vista Murrieta (9-3), striking out five in four innings. Orange Lutheran had four baserunners picked off. Vista Murrieta is waiting to see if standout Jack Moberg can make it back this season as a hitter after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Burica remembers what it was like when he was tall, thin, uncoordinated and still growing.
"I was goofy," he said. "When you're 6-6 and 150 pounds, you know everything is different. You're walking over and tripping."
His growing is done and his slider has become a very good out pitch.
Orange Lutheran (9-1), ranked No. 2 by The Times and a winner of eight consecutive games, plays Riverside North on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at JSerra in the quarterfinals.
In another opener, Great Oak upset No. 3-ranked Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, 2-0. Great Oak scored two runs off Hunter Greene in the first inning and made the runs stand up.
Kyle Peppler threw 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief and got out of a bases loaded situation in the sixth. Great Oak will play at 3 p.m. at Mater Dei on Wednesday against El Camino Real.
In the biggest upset of the day, North stunned Huntington Beach, 13-3. Huntington Beach won the National High School Invitational last week in North Carolina. But Manny Galvan started the day with a grand slam in the first inning off Hagen Danner. Tony Bullard finished with three hits and two RBIs.
Pitchers Jeremy Polon and James Terrazas lifted El Camino Real past South Hills, 2-1. The Conquistadores got a sacrifice fly from Dylan Hirsch in the seventh for the walk-off win.
Damien lost to Mira Costa, 1-0, in a controversial seventh inning. Damien's Isaiah Page hit a potential game-winning two-run home run in the top of the seventh but it was taken away when the umpire ruled the lead runner failed to touch home plate. Mira Costa appealed and the game ended. Trevor Franklin gets credit for the shutout.
La Costa Canyon pulled out a 3-2 win over Chaminade with a run in the bottom of the seventh. Blake Rutherford went three for three for the Eagles. Mater Dei defeated Loyola, 9-5, with Matt Peabody getting four hits and Josh Stephen three hits. Davis Wendzel hit a three-run home run in JSerra's 7-3 win over Corona Santiago. Brice Turang had three hits for Santiago.
Wednesday's quarterfinal schedule: At Mater Dei: Great Oak vs. El Camino Real, 3 p.m.; Mater Dei vs. Mira Costa, 6 p.m. At JSerra: Orange Lutheran vs. North, 3 p.m.; JSerra vs. La Costa Canyon, 6 p.m.