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JSerra baseball team is loaded with talent, 13 college-bound players

Shortstop Cody Schrier and pitcher Gage Jump, who have signed with UCLA, are top players for JSerra's baseball team.
Shortstop Cody Schrier, left, and pitcher Gage Jump, who have signed with UCLA, are top players for JSerra’s baseball team that begins its season on Saturday.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

With 13 players committed to Division I colleges, including perhaps the No. 1 players at pitcher and shortstop in the Southland, San Juan Capistrano JSerra has been eager to play an official high school baseball game for months. Last year’s team was 11-1 when the season was halted because of the coronavirus.

How good is this year’s team?

“This team has the chance to be the best just because what’s on the mound,” coach Brett Kay said.

Left-hander Gage Jump, who has signed with UCLA, has a 92-mph fastball and three other effective pitches, making him the pitcher to fear most this year. He’s been good since he was a freshman and found ways to get better during an 11-month youth sports shutdown. He lifted weights at home, threw long toss with his older brother, who plays for Arizona State, and became even more convinced that being 5 feet 11 means nothing for a pitcher.

“I don’t care if I’m 5-8 or 6-4. I think I’m 6-10 out on the mound,” he said.

While Gage is good, there are others to count on. Eric Silva, a transfer from Laguna Beach who signed with UCLA, will be available on April 23 after the sit-out period. He throws in the 90s. David Horn, a UCLA commitment from the class of 2022, transferred from Murrieta Valley. Freshman Matt Champion is committed to Arizona State.

Then there’s the guy playing shortstop, Cody Schrier, who has also signed with UCLA. If there’s one position that you can count on JSerra being good at it, it’s shortstop, where Schrier follows the likes of Chase Strumpf, Royce Lewis and Michael Curialle. Strumpf was All-Pac-12 at UCLA, Lewis was the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft and Curialle is starting in the outfield for UCLA.

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In his senior year, Schrier is poised to hit for power and average while being consistently good as a fielder. He has played against top competition and usually thrives under pressure.

Schrier said he traveled on airplanes more than 15 times during summer and fall to play in out-of-state showcases and tournaments while wearing a mask. “We were super cautionary and quarantined when we needed to,” he said.

Schrier said the team’s group of talented seniors who lost to Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 1-0 in a heartbreaking playoff game in 2019 as sophomores and then were denied a chance to avenge that defeat in 2020 remain focused on the job ahead.

“We’ve been ready,” he said. “We’re just hoping to get in a season. It’s a really talented group of kids with good camaraderie. I think it’s special for this to be our senior year and hopefully go out with a bang. Our talent is off the charts.”

Of course, the coronavirus and travel restrictions within California make it uncertain where things might stand come June when playoffs are supposed to take place. JSerra isn’t standing pat. The team intends to travel within the boundaries allowed in Southern California to play the best, starting with a season opener on Friday against Corona.

Kay wants his players to get the most out of a 2021 season after almost a year of no luck.

“They have a chance to be the best team we’ve ever had,” he said.

There’s plenty of opponents looking forward to the challenge of trying to topple the Lions. Chino Hills Ayala has nine returning starters. Yucaipa has nine Division I commits. Studio City Harvard-Westlake has a pair of highly touted freshmen pitchers in Bryce Rainer and Duncan Marsten, who are committed to UCLA and Stanford, respectively. Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita have the pitching pieces to make a stand in the Trinity League.

In the City Section, Van Nuys Birmingham is the three-time defending champion. Gavin Taylor was the pitcher last season as a freshman who helped hand JSerra its only loss. Chris Romero pitched in the 2019 final at Dodger Stadium. Dom Cervantes is an outfielder who started in right field at Dodger Stadium as a freshman.

Wilmington Banning returns the No. 1 pitcher in the City Section in left-hander Anthony Joya, who signed with Cal State Fullerton. While there’s uncertainty whether there will be Southern Section playoffs, the City Section intends to have playoffs and Dodger Stadium remains a possibility for the championship game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Pitchers

Christian Becerra, Harvard-Westlake, Sr.: Cal signee commands strike zone

Gage Jump, JSerra, Sr.: Left-hander will be toughest to score against

Thatcher Hurd, Mira Costa, Sr.: UCLA signee has made giant improvement

Eric Silva, JSerra, Sr.: Right-hander with multiple pitches

David Horn, JSerra, Jr.: Power pitcher is a UCLA commit

Chris Grothues, Servite, Jr.: Tough to beat in Trinity League

Anthony Joya, Banning, Sr.: Cal State Fullerton signee is No. 1 in City Section

Jaden Noot, Sierra Canyon, Jr.: Oregon commit continues to develop

Catcher

Karson Bowen, Orange Lutheran, Jr.: Has committed to Texas Christian

Jack Holman, Etiwanda, Sr.: 6-4 UCLA signee with left-handed hitting power

Charlie Saum, Thousand Oaks, Sr.: Can hit for power and average

Matt Quintanar, Hart, Jr.; Pepperdine commit is one of best in school history`

Jacob Galloway, Harvard-Westlake, Jr.: Texas Tech commit has terrific arm

Infielders

Will Burns, Mission Viejo, So.: Athletic, gifted and improving fast

Max Muncy, Thousand Oaks, Sr.: Will be four-year standout

Cody Schrier, JSerra, Sr.: UCLA signee ready for best season yet

Trent Caraway, Santa Margarita, So.: Oregon State commit is headed for star status

Matthew Polk, Orange Lutheran, Sr.: Has signed with Vanderbilt

Outfielders

Roc Riggio, Thousand Oaks, Sr.: Oklahoma State signee hits and hits.

Nick McLain, Beckman, Sr.: UCLA signee is switch hitter

Caleb Brandon, St. John Bosco, Jr.: USC commit is fastest around

Matty Clark, Damien, Sr.: 6-2 Arizona signee plays with passion

Cole Koniarsky, Ayala, Sr.: Cal State Fullerton signee is 6-4


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