Central Valley High School’s baseball team has a top-tier starting pitching rotation in Gabrial Lopez and Chris Garcia.
“It’s nice to know every time they go out there, we’re going to have a chance to win,” Hawks’ coach Derrick Goblirsch said.
“It gives our team great confidence,” Garcia stated.
“We’ve been doing a great job of pushing each other all year,” Lopez added. “We love to compete. We hold each other accountable.”
Lopez, a San Francisco State commit, has been playing varsity baseball at Central Valley since the ninth grade.
In nine starts this year, Lopez has posted a 4-5 record with a 2.49 ERA, 90 strikeouts, one shutout and one complete game. Opposing hitters have a batting average of .176.
Lopez didn’t receive any help from his offense in losing 5-0 to Gregori and 4-0 to East Union. He gave up a combined two earned runs.
“His numbers are good,” Goblirsch said. “He’s not getting the wins like last year but it’s not his fault. We haven’t given him a lot of help on either side, offensively or defensively. That’s been a problem for us all year. But he’s stayed positive and battled every time he’s gone out there.”
“Gabrial’s ability to get a strikeout when he needs it has been a huge part of his success,” he added. “His fastball is his best pitch. His secondary pitches are good, too. When they’re all working, he’s almost unhittable.”
“Gabrial’s a great pitcher,” Garcia said. “He throws strikes and gets outs.”
“After every start, I feel like I could have done better,” Lopez said.
Lopez had a perfect 7-0 mark on the mound with a 0.60 ERA, one no-hitter, three shutouts, six complete games, 84 strikeouts and 18 walks as Central Valley amassed a 14-4 overall record and claimed its first-ever conference championship (8-1) during the 2021 COVID-shortened season.
“The numbers he put up last year were ridiculous,” Goblirsch said. “It was unbelievable what he did. He was locked in.”
Lopez made program history as a junior by becoming just the second baseball player from Central Valley High School to earn Most Valuable Player honors. He was named Western Athletic Conference South MVP in a vote by the league’s head coaches.
Lopez stands alone as Central Valley’s greatest pitcher.
“He’s been the most consistent by far since I’ve been here and I’d say probably in the history of CV,” Goblirsch said. “When he came in as a freshman, he was a good pitcher. He was also a good hitter. The last two years, he’s been locked in on just pitching knowing that’s where his future lies. His mental approach has changed a lot. He knows what he wants. His work ethic has shown in his numbers over the years.”
“Coach (Goblirsch) has always had a good amount of trust in me,” Lopez said. “My dad has always been my No. 1 supporter. I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”
“I’ve enjoyed every single moment of my high-school baseball career,” he added. “My first two years, I stuck to fastball and slider. I developed a pretty good curveball and changeup. My changeup has been my best pitch this year.”
Garcia, a 6-foot-3 freshman southpaw, has performed like a veteran this spring.
He uses patience to control the tempo of the game as he routinely steps off the mound between pitches.
“It’s one thing to be talented. It’s another to understand the game and control it at such a high level at that young of an age. His maturity on the mound is unbelievable. We’ve had seniors that are not as composed as him. I don’t know how to describe it at times.”Coach Derrick Goblirsch on Chris Garcia
“It’s one thing to be talented,” Goblirsch said. “It’s another to understand the game and control it at such a high level at that young of an age. His maturity on the mound is unbelievable. We’ve had seniors that are not as composed as him. I don’t know how to describe it at times.”
“I had confidence going into the season,” Garcia said. “The biggest thing for me is I don’t look at myself as being younger than everyone else. I’ve played a lot of travel ball. I’ve been pitching against older kids most of my life.”
In nine starts, Garcia has gone 4-4 with a 1.10 ERA, 74 strikeouts, nine walks and two complete games. Opponents are hitting just .190 versus Garcia.
Garcia allowed just three earned runs while losing 2-0 to Merced, 3-1 to both Buhach Colony and Turlock, and 5-4 to Atwater.
“His numbers are similar to what Gabrial had last year,” Goblirsch said. “He’s outperformed expectations from everybody. His strengths are his ability to locate pitches and change speeds. He’s so effective. It puts a lot of pressure on batters.”
“I’m extremely impressed with how he’s doing this year,” Lopez said. “I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. I’ve known about Chris since he was 7 or 8. He’s always been a great pitcher. He has a great presence on the mound. He’s a competitor. It’s hard to get under his skin. That’s something I’ve taken pride in, too.”
“You try not to make your pitch sequence predictable,” Garcia said. “You have to mix it up. Sometimes, I’ll step off the mound to get their timing off. Hearing other people complain motivates me to do better. That’s part of baseball.”
Goblirsch doesn’t want to put any limitations on Garcia’s growth as a pitcher.
“There’s definitely room for growth but he’s setting such a high bar for himself,” Goblirsch said. “His numbers are absurd. His velocity will go up because he’ll get bigger and stronger. His off-speed pitches will get sharper.”
“I can always do better,” Garcia said. “That’s just me pushing myself.”
Lopez and Garcia played travel baseball together with the Ceres Blaze during their childhood.
Lopez, who was 11 at the time, was three years older than Garcia.
“Even then, he (Garcia) was dominating,” Lopez said. “I’ll be following Chris for the rest of his baseball career. He has the ability to be greater than anybody at Central Valley. He has a chance to do things even I never did.”