— SW RIV. COUNTY — The 7th annual Austin Gorrell Memorial Baseball Classic featured 42 local high school teams playing in games, honoring the former baseball player, who played in high school for JW North. Austin was not wearing his assigned defibrillator vest when he died from heart failure at the early age of 19, which was caught by the staff when he was a freshman playing baseball for the University of Nevada.

Gina and Kerry Gorrell speak to the fans at 66ers Stadium as they continue honoring their son Austin with a yearly baseball tournament for local high school teams. Valley News/Courtesy photo

The condition, called cardiomyopathy, was diagnosed during his preseason physical administered by the school’s athletic department in 2015, before he passed away in his dorm room bed months later.

Austin’s sudden death not only shocked his family, but it also shook the Inland baseball community. Immediately, the Austin Gorrell Memorial Baseball Classic was created and started with just nine teams. Austin’s family and friends wanted to not only help honor Austin, but to also help local players with scholarship opportunities for college.

Kerry and Gina Gorrell, Austin’s parents, have made it their yearly mission, with the help of family and countless volunteers, to see this tournament through, except, of course, for the COVID-19 year in 2020.

Great Oak, last year’s runners-up, was once again a host school for the Austin Gorrell Memorial Baseball Classic. Valley News/Skyview Drones Photography

The most recent Austin Gorrell Memorial Baseball Classic opened with the annual Home Run Derby Friday, Nov. 18, at Ryan Bonaminio Park in Riverside, which was followed by games taking place from Saturday, Nov. 19 through Tuesday, Nov. 22.

After four days of winter baseball, the tournament wrapped up with a game between Norco and Aquinas. The two teams battled with no score through the bottom of seventh, when the game had to be called due to time running out at 66ers Stadium in San Bernardino. The outcome was a first for the final two teams competing, as was the venue, but it was also a warm ending for such a great cause.

Area high school teams that competed this year included last year’s runners-up Great Oak, Chaparral, Temescal Canyon, Paloma Valley, Murrieta Mesa, Murrieta Valley and Vista Murrieta. Great Oak and Paloma Valley made it the furthest in the Tournament’s Gold Bracket, advancing to the semifinals, while Vista Murrieta did the same in the Silver bracket, which was won by Eleanor Roosevelt High School.

A Vista Murrieta player slides home during pool play action of the 7th annual Austin Gorrell Memorial Baseball Classic. Valley News/Action Captures Media Group

The highlight of the night came for 10 recipients of the Austin Gorrell Scholarship Award, which took place prior to the game where $33,000 was given out to graduating seniors that are moving on to college. The senior ball players were asked to write an essay detailing what the scholarship would mean to them, and those 10 winners included four local players from the Southwestern League.

2022 scholarship recipients are Jack O’Malley of Crean Lutheran ($7K), Mason Schumacher of Riverside Poly ($5K), Jacob Areano of JW North ($4K), Austin Castillo of ML King ($3K), Brendan Shanahan of Great Oak ($3K), Luca Noce of JW North ($2,500), Ryan Lee of Great Oak ($2,500), Masen Swan of ML King ($2,500), Willis Lacy of Vista Murrieta ($2K) and Noah Benavides of Murrieta Valley ($1,500)

As December arrives, preparations are already underway for next year’s tournament. To find out more information, visit www.austingorrellbaseballclassic.com.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.

JP Raineri
JP Raineri

JP is an award-winning multimedia journalist, and head of the Sports Department for the Valley News. Over his time in the Temecula Valley, JP, a former Southwestern League head baseball coach, was also an on-air radio personality at Q103.3, KATY 101.3, Hot 103.9, and was a television host for the Outdoor Channel. When not covering local, or national sports, JP also serves as an Associate Baseball Scout with NSR.