The fifth annual Austin Gorrell Baseball Classic wrapped up with a thriller of a game between Orange Lutheran High School and Corona High School at California Baptist University’s James W. Totman Stadium. The game was held Tuesday, Nov. 26, in front of a max capacity crowd, all who were there to honor the memory of Austin Gorrell. Austin died in 2015, in his college dorm room while sleeping. At the time, Austin was a freshman playing baseball for the University of Nevada Reno, but had been diagnosed with a heart condition called, cardiomyopathy. The diagnosis came during his preseason physical administered by the Nevada athletic department in 2015.
The condition put Austin at a 3% chance of suffering heart failure and forced him to medically redshirt his freshman season. Unfortunately, he was not wearing his assigned defibrillator vest when he died from heart failure at the young age of 19. Before playing for the University of Nevada, Austin was a standout catcher for the J.W. North Huskies out of Riverside.
The Austin Gorrell Memorial Baseball Classic was brought to fruition by his family and friends to not only help honor Austin, but to also help local players with scholarship opportunities for college.
The annual home run derby kicked off the 5-day event, which began Friday, Nov. 22, at Ryan Bonaminio Park in Riverside. It was also an opportunity for the Gorrell family to interact with the baseball community and share their son’s story with those in attendance. Also in attendance was LA Dodgers third base coach, Dino Ebel who, along with RC Quakes coach Mark Kertenian, is said to have played a role in Austin’s recruitment to the University of Nevada Reno. This year, Elijah Buries of Orange Lutheran High School took home the title of Home Run Derby winner with 62 home runs overall.
Despite the weather and rain just days before the tournament started, everything went off without a hitch. Local high school teams that competed this year included Heritage, Tahquitz, Chaparral, Temescal Canyon, Murrieta Mesa, Vista Murrieta and West Valley high schools. A few of the local teams even got a chance to compete against each other, though it’s highly unlikely any of them truly showed their hands against each other. These games are more rep based, but of course, no one ever wants to lose a game, even if it is exhibition. Tahquitz got a chance to play Chaparral in the second round of games, where they beat the Pumas 7-6, and Vista Murrieta and Murrieta Mesa had a city showdown on Rams field, but that game went the way of the Broncos, 7-0. Sophomore Mikey Romero and senior Cayden Castellanos had back-to-back jacks in the game and contributed to 6 RBIs on the day with their multiple hit game. Vista Murrieta would go on to face Corona high School in the semifinals, but their run would end there.
The championship game, which was held at California Baptist University’s James W. Totman Stadium, took place between Orange Lutheran and Corona under the lights. Orange Lutheran came out swinging and put up five runs in the first inning, but Corona chipped away and put the pressure on in the sixth and seventh innings, ultimately falling 5-4 when the dust settled. Before the game, the Gorrell family dispersed $30,000 in scholarship checks to 10 seniors that were selected by submitting essays to the tournament committee about what this tournament means to them and why they deserve the scholarship. The 2019 Cody Smith Strongman Award went to Orange Lutheran’s Justin DeCriscio, and the Matt Becerra Humble and Loyal Award went to Corona’s Daniel Cruz.
“To be able to provide more and more seniors every year with some scholarship money is such a blessing, it is what Austin would have wanted,” Gina Gorrell said, who also noted some struggles behind this year’s build up to the tournament. “There were some extra costs this year, especially with the cost of umpires, but it all worked out in the end. Next year the umpires already assured us that they plan to make things easier and we appreciate that.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.