GRANADA HILLS — It’s happening already.
All early signs point to a Burroughs High baseball program that’s back on the rise.
The Indians were dealt a significant setback in March, when the team was caught in the midst of an alleged underage drinking scandal involving a number of players.
The remainder of the season was canceled.
On April 18, former coach J.R. Schwer and his staff were fired by the school, which determined an assistant coach allegedly provided players beer during a tournament trip to Arizona.
But during Monday’s game against Granada Hills High, there were no indications of a team shaken by substantial disciplinary action and a recent overhaul in leadership.
The Indians got off to a rough start, but rallied their way to a convincing 8-2 win.
Under the guidance of new Coach Eddie Alvarez, Burroughs has gotten off to a 4-0 start in summer league play.
“It’s huge,” Alvarez said of the hot start. “Everybody says, ‘Oh, it’s just summer ball.’ But you know what? Winning builds confidence. This would be a lot different club right now if we were 0-4. The attitude would be a lot different.”
His job is one of righting a wronged ship, and he’s doing so with noticeable positive enthusiasm.
“If we were to go 0-14 this summer, people would be asking for my head,” Alvarez remarked with candor. “We got to turn the page from last season. The administration has been great to me. The parents have been awesome. They’re really behind what we’re going to do. If I didn’t have the backing of the administration and the parents, I wouldn’t be here. That’s the reason I went after this because I knew I would have that.”
The players are responding under the new coach.
“I feel like last year was our year to shine,” said first baseman Chris Peale, a rising senior. “But I feel like this year we click more. I feel like this 4-0 start is going to lead on to more and more.”
Against Granada Hills (0-4), Peale went three for four, with three singles, two runs batted in and a run scored.
“He’s really been smacking the ball around,” Alvarez said.
Teammate Stewart Alexander finished three for three, including three singles, an RBI and two runs scored.
“Stewart’s bat has been picking up in the last two or three games,” Alvarez said.
Alexander also noted how Burroughs is playing with cohesiveness in the early going of the Alvarez era, though the bond has been in the works for years.
“Most of us have been playing together since we were 5, in T-ball,” he said. “We have a lot of chemistry together.”
The Highlanders, whose green uniforms actually read, ‘Gas House Hang,’ led the Indians, 2-0, after two innings.
Granada Hills designated hitter Eric Whittlesey hit a RBI-single just over the head of Indians third baseman Angel Villagran in the bottom of the first.
Center fielder Chad Richman nailed a RBI-single to right-center field with two outs in the bottom of the second, putting the Highlanders up, 2-0.
“We came out a little lazy,” Alvarez said. “We had terrible approaches to start the game and you could see it. We tried to hit the ball out of the ball park out of a guy who’s throwing 45 miles per hour. I just don’t think we were ready to play baseball to start the game.”
The temporary lapse quickly vanished in the third inning, when Burroughs erupted for four runs.
Indian Christian Garia drove a ground ball just by shortstop Eric Luna and into shallow left field, allowing Chris Davies to score. Davies got on base by drawing his first of three walks in the game.
With one out, Peale hit a RBI-single to left field, scoring Alexander, and tying the game.
“When we come together as a team, I think our rallies just happen,” Peale said. “We click. It’s like our team’s one family.”
Ryan Gordon singled home Garia, giving Burroughs their first lead, 3-2.
Peale scored just before the inning, and rally, ended, when Nate Borgard nearly hit into a double play, but beat the throw at first base, preserving the fourth run.
“Hitting is contagious,” Alvarez said. “If one guy’s going to hit, I really believe the rest of the club is going to do it.”
In the top of the fourth inning, the Indians rallied once more, adding three more runs, taking a 7-2 lead.
Alexander singled to right-center field, scoring Davies and Peale hit another RBI-single, this time to left field, coming with two outs. Then it was Gordon’s turn again, as he singled to right field, bringing home Stewart.
Burroughs shortstop Brian Pozos recorded the final RBI-single in the top of the fifth inning.
Borgard earned the win, pitching five innings, giving up four hits, two runs, one unearned run, two walks and striking out two.
Indians pitcher Zane Carey pitched the sixth and seventh innings, giving up four hits, no runs and one walk, while registering two strike outs.