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All-Imperial Valley Press Baseball Team

June 17, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

Before the start of the 2002 high school baseball season, Brawley Union High's Brandon Burnett knew for his team to be successful he would have to perform at the highest level.

Not that any individual is the reason for a team's success, but as Burnett went, so did the Wildcats.

Finishing with an Imperial Valley leading 35 RBI and five home runs to go with a .390 batting average and 10 runs, Burnett led Brawley to a 10-2 mark in the Imperial Valley League and the league championship.

He was even more so on the mound, going 7-2 overall, 5-0 in IVL and finishing with a 1.79 ERA and 57 strikeouts.

All that earned Burnett the Imperial Valley Press' 2002 baseball player of the year.

"This season was very challenging for us. There was a lot of things on and off the field that we had to overcome and we just did our best to try and pull it all together," said Burnett. "On the field, when you're pitching, there's always pressure on you. So you just go out and try to establish yourself."

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Burnett finished tied for first in wins in the Imperial Valley and finished in the top four in ERA and strikeouts.

As impressive as his numbers were, he said he was slightly disappointed with his team losing in the opening round of the CIF San Diego Section Division III playoffs.

"When everybody starts the season, the ultimate goal is to win CIF. Honestly, you don't go in hoping to win IVL. Winning league is a nice accomplishment, but the ultimate goal is winning CIF," said Burnett. "But even though it didn't end the way we would've liked, that still doesn't take away from what we accomplished this year."

As much as Burnett meant to the Wildcats, he'll be the first to concede the team wouldn't have had the success it had without head coach Pedro Carranza, who earns Press coach of the year honors.

In only his third year as Brawley skipper, Carranza guided his team to a 14-11 overall mark and its second league championship in three years.

On the Press' first team from Brawley are Joel Aguirre, Lafayette Lofton and David Santana. The Wildcats' Mitchell Ruiz and Matt Smith earned second-team honors.

"I thought, this year our kids accomplished a lot. On any given day I felt we could've beaten anybody," said Carranza. "If you look at it, the last two years we've gone 20-4 in IVL. I don't think anyone has a better record than that in league. But all that's the kids. They've worked hard to get that."

In 2001 the Wildcats finished with a 10-2 league mark, taking second place in IVL behind Calexico, which went 11-1, with the only loss coming to Brawley.

"I think if there's one way to describe this year, I'd say it was a roller coaster ride. We had our ups and we had our downs," said Carranza. "This season I learned more in one year of coaching than I have in 30 years of my life. It was just the most emotionally filled year I've ever had. And I have this team to thank for everything."

Earning pitcher of the year honors is Calexico's J.P. Gonzalez.

Despite his team finishing in fifth place in the IVL with a 5-7 record, Gonzalez proved to be one of the toughest pitchers in the Valley, finishing with a 1.61 ERA and 66 Ks, both ranking him in the top three in the Valley.

In two games against league champion Brawley, he struck out 11 and gave up 14 hits in 17 innings. He notched the victory in the Bulldogs' 5-4 win over the Wildcats in April. In the season finale against Brawley, he struck out four and gave up one earned run, but Calexico still lost 3-1.

"He is by far the most competitive individual in the Valley that I saw this year," said Carranza. "He doesn't necessarily have the best stuff, but his competitiveness is what carries him. When he was pitching he made Calexico a much better team. He just made everyone around him better.

"I do think that Brandon is probably the best pitcher in the Valley, but it's close. J.P. is right there with him," Carranza said. "This is no disrespect to Calexico, but if he's on our team, then he goes undefeated."

Wrapping up the first team are Central's Enrique Lechuga and Javier Vasquez, Holtville's Edward Castro, Imperial's Aaron Hartsock and Julian Lopez and Southwest's Ricky Lopez.

Along with Brawley's Ruiz and Smith, on the second team are Calexico's Damien Lopez, Calipatria's Daniel Sadberry, Central's Leo Ibarra and Mario Gastelum, Southwest's Chuck Ainza and Alex Caldera and Vincent Memorial's Nick Santos.

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