How the west could win

June 05, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

During the 2002 Imperial Valley League baseball season, Brawley Union, Imperial and Southwest high teams battled each other week in and week out as bitter rivals.

Brawley and Southwest have rifts dating to the football season, the Wildcats and Tigers have developed a heated rivalry in baseball and there certainly isn't any love lost between the Eagles and Imperial.

Come Friday, however, any animosity among the players of those school's varsity baseball squads will have to be put on hold as seniors from each team combine to make up the West team in the second annual Imperial Valley Baseball 2002 Senior All-star Game, to be played at 7 p.m. at Imperial High.

The West will take on the East, made up of seniors from Calexico, Calipatria, Central and Holtville.

"It's a little weird playing with those other guys from the other schools because they were our rivals during the season," said Imperial's Julian Lopez, the Tigers' second baseman, who finished the season with a .297 batting average, scored 20 runs, knocked in 14 and had one home run. "Sure, they were our rivals, but for one day, we're all on the same team and we're all teammates."


Said Tiger third baseman Kevin Williams, who hit .247 with 17 runs and four RBI: "What happened during the season is in the past. We're all part of the same team now. It doesn't matter what happened this season just as long as we can play together as one body."

Joining Lopez and Williams from Imperial will be pitcher Aaron Hartsock (.263 batting average, 16 RBI, 14 runs, one home run, 3.00 ERA and 70 strikeouts), Brenden Lopez (.309 average, 17 runs, 14 RBI) and Bryan Seeger (.277, eight runs and five RBI).

While any rivalries do mean a lot to the players of the West, those interviewed think the game will strictly be for fun.

"That's how I'm looking at this game. It's just going to be for fun. You're not going in there trying to hurt anyone. You just want to have fun," said Brawley second baseman Mitchell Ruiz, who had a .308 average with 23 runs and five RBI. "You do take it seriously and you play as hard as you would any other game, but you're just trying to have as much fun as you can."

Other Wildcats playing in the game are Joel Aguirre (.348 average, 20 runs, 11 RBI, one home run), pitcher Brandon Burnett (.390 batting average, 35 RBI, 10 runs, five home runs, 1.79 ERA and 57 Ks), pitcher Javier Calles (.250, eight runs, two RBI, 2.51 ERA, 16 strikeouts) and Matt Smith (.250, 18 RBI, 10 runs and three RBI).

Rounding out the players from Brawley is David Santana, who finished second in three offensive categories in the Valley with a .465 batting average, 24 runs and 20 RBI. Santana also had a 4.38 ERA with 23 Ks as a pitcher.

For Santana, the game does have a little bit more meaning because it will be the last time he plays baseball representing Brawley.

"It kind of pumps you up because it's the last high school game. You just get a little more motivated for it," said Santana, Brawley's center fielder. "But at the same time, even though it is the last high school game I'm playing in, it's not the last time I'm going to play baseball because I plan on playing in college."

Also on the West are Southwest's Chuck Ainza (.352 average, 15 RBI, nine runs, two home runs) and Ricky Lopez, who led the Eagles with a .394 average, 20 RBI, 18 runs and three home runs.

"It's going to be fun playing with those guys from the other teams. That whole rivalry thing doesn't even matter because it's only a game," said Lopez, the Eagles' third baseman. "I'm going out there and taking it seriously, but I still want to have fun playing. Really, I just want to show what I have and have a good time."

>> Coming Thursday: The East squad's story.

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