St. Francis group Knighted by Mission League

GLENDALE — As its 6-6 record would indicate, the St. Francis High baseball team had its ups and downs competing in the Mission League this season.

But following a campaign that saw the Golden Knights register enough quality wins against the rest of the league to secure a fourth-place finish and a CIF Southern Section Division II playoff appearance, the glass is definitely looking half full to Coach Brian Esquival.

"I was really pleased [with how we did in league], we were a pretty young team," said Esquival, whose team finished 14-13 overall and won its final three league games to muscle its way into a third-place tie to end the season. "When you have a young team, you just don't know how they're going to come out, game in and game out, and I think that kind of showed just by our play not being very consistent, but it's definitely a bright future for us.

"I'm just very pleased with how they conducted themselves all season long, for the most part."

Youthful as the Golden Knights were overall, it was a quartet of upperclassmen that gained recognition on the recently released all-league honor roll, as voted on by the league's coaches.

Senior catcher David Hubinger and junior shortstop David Olmedo-Barrera were named to the first team, while senior starting pitcher Joey Malham and junior utility Jeff Garavaglia made the second-team list.

From his central position behind the plate, the Pepperdine University-bound Hubinger was a dependable leader and provided some offensive spark with a .387 batting average, 24 runs batted in, eight doubles and 14 walks.

"Hubinger was our captain, he did everything for us," Esquival said. "He not only played a tough position, but just his presence alone for us was more than enough. He did a great job defensively, helping the pitchers and taking control of the defensive side and everything we got from him offensively was just a plus.

"That's going to be a tough void for us to fill down the road."

Olmedo-Barrera followed up a breakout sophomore year, in which he batted .500 in league to notch second-team honors, with a solid junior line that included a .415 batting average (.394 in league), 19 RBI, 11 doubles and 11 stolen bases.

"He didn't hit .500 in league for us this year, but he hit close to .400 and that says a lot," Esquival said. "Now the other teams in the league know who he is and they're going to pitch to him a little bit differently. For him to still go about his business and hit, that says a lot for him right there. He matured a little bit as a hitter, he played short for us this year and did a pretty good job."

Malham, who's bound for the University of Massachusetts, posted some huge league wins for the Golden Knights, including a 6-3 win on March 15 over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, ranked No. 2 in Division II at the time. He went 6-3 (4-2 in league) with a 3.11 earned-run average.

"He was our Tuesday game and we couldn't ask for any more out of him," Esquival said. "Every start that he made, he kept us in a baseball game.

"He had an outstanding season."

Garavaglia impressed in his first year of varsity ball, batting .489 (.457 in league), hitting 13 doubles and driving in 25 runs.

"We knew he could swing the bat, we knew he was very offensive-minded," Esquival said of Garavaglia, who played at designated hitter, first base and left field. "I wasn't surprised he hit .457 in league because we knew he was an offensive-minded guy, but coming into the Mission League and doing that your first year, that's big. I'm very proud of him because he worked extremely hard and he got rewarded on having a good year."

Michael Dingilian of Chaminade was the league's most valuable player and Harvard-Westlake's Lucas Giolito was named most valuable pitcher.

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