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Torreys baseball team rides hot streak

When the La Jolla Country Day baseball team started the season, it knew it would have dependable hitting and defense. But the difference from having an average first half to the season compared to the team’s current 11-3 record has been the team’s pitching.

Last week, the Torreys put together a complete team effort as they took home the 3A Division championship of the Lions Baseball Tournament.

Now at the midway point of its season, LJCD will come back from spring break with a boost of confidence and high expectations for the remainder of the season.

“I knew we’d be better as a hitting club and I knew we’d be better as a defensive club, but I had no idea how much better we’d be as a pitching club and that’s made a huge difference (this season),” head coach John Edman said.

So far this season, the team has lowered its earned run average by nearly three points from last year. After 14 games, the team’s ERA is a meager 1.86. And the production is coming from seasoned veterans that include seniors Keith Gordon (1.73) and Jason Gilberg (2.23) as well sophomore Ian Lutz (0.79).

Edman said the improved pitching has also affected the hitting as well.

“They both kinda feed off each other,” he said. “Knowing that we’ll pitch and stay in ball games helps our hitters, and knowing that we’ll hit helps our pitchers to know they don’t have to carry the burden themselves. It’s been a great combination.

“You get the sense that we go out there expecting to win now. And even if we get down by a run or two, we still expect to win. And that makes a huge difference on the ball field, too. There is no time at which we panic — we just keep playing.”

And speaking of the hitters, as a team, the Torreys have been scorching the ball this season with a combined team average of .382. The team has five starting batters — Anthony Torres (.436), Sam Ayala (.474), Tommy Edman (.447), Frank Brown (.432), Dustin Hughes (.417), Jason Gilberg (.457) — who are all hitting .400 or better.

“We have a lot of kids in our lineup who hit the ball,” said team co-captain Conner Gerhart. “If you look at our lineup, there are not any weak spots.”

As a complete team, there are very few weak spots, something that was proven last week in the team’s five games of the Lions Tournament. The Torreys started the tournament with a 6-3 win over Southwest (El Centro) followed by a 13-1 win against Lincoln and then a narrow 5-4 defeat of Mount Miguel (Spring Valley). In the semifinal game LJCD topped Morse 3-1 followed by an offensive explosion against Valley Center, 14-3.

“It was definitely a big boost,” Gerhart said. “We win a tournament like this, a team that nobody really expects to make the playoffs, and wind up winning the thing. It kinda justifies what coach sees in us. It’s our way of showing him that we are listening to what he says, we take it to heart and we are doing our best.”

With the team’s five-game winning streak and a recent championship, it has also brought higher expectations for the second-half of the season.

“The first half was to keep on getting better... we feel like we have a real good sense of that by now,” Edman said. “To have gotten a lot better and have figured it all out and be 11-3, we are pretty happy with that. Our two remaining goals are to win the Coastal-South championship and win a CIF championship. But the approach that we take is to keep getting better, play well and get better one game at time and those things will take care of themselves.”

Tournament MVP

With all the standout upperclassmen for the Torreys this season, it was a freshman who was the team’s top player at the Lions Tournament. Dustin Hughes was named the 3A Division MVP for the tournament, which was capped by a three-run homer and a double in the team’s 11-run win against Valley Center in the championship game. For the tournament, Hughes went 8-for-16 with two doubles, a home run and 10 RBI.

Next up for Torreys baseball

Friday night, LJCD is back on the diamond at home as it takes on La Jolla High under the lights. The cross-town schools are playing for the third straight year.

“It’s a rival in the sense that they are across town,” Edman said. “This will be the third year in a row, so I guess the rivalry is slowly building.”