Gabrial Lopez made program history by becoming just the second baseball player from Central Valley High School to earn Most Valuable Player honors.
The junior pitcher was named Western Athletic Conference South MVP in a vote by the league’s head coaches following the conclusion of the 2021 campaign.
“I found out the day after our last game,” Lopez said. “I was excited. It’s one of the best achievements I’ve gotten in baseball during my high-school career. My preparation had a lot to do with it. I did a lot of work on my mental and physical health. Baseball can break you down mentally if you’re not prepared and tough enough. I go into every start like it’s any other day. I try not to get too high or low. I also figured out how to use my body to the best of its ability. That got me over the hump.”
“I wasn’t surprised,” Hawks’ head coach Derrick Goblirsch said. “He’s a baseball guy. He plays year-round. The most impressive thing is how fast it happened. He made great strides from freshman year to this year. I’m excited to see where he goes from here because his ceiling is really high.”
Lopez follows in the footsteps of Ruben Casas, who won the WAC MVP award in 2013.
Casas pitched, batted third and played shortstop while leading the Hawks to their first-ever playoff appearance. He compiled a 5-1 record with a 3.14 ERA, 45 strikeouts and two complete games. Casas hit .400 with two homers, three triples, four doubles, four stolen bases, 10 RBIs and 10 runs.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Lopez said. “When I was in elementary school, I watched him (Casas) play. He set the expectation for how good a pitcher and overall baseball player should be at Central Valley.”
Lopez posted a perfect 7-0 record on the mound with a 0.60 earned-run average, 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).
“He hasn’t let us down up to this point,” Goblirsch said. “He’s a student of the game. That’s why he’s been able to better his performance.”
“I’m my biggest critic,” Lopez said. “You’re never going to be perfect all the time. You always have to strive for it.”
Central Valley teammates Samuel Wilson, Sergio Solis and Angel Vega all garnered first-team recognition.
Wilson, a junior catcher/outfielder, batted .449 on the year with one triple, six doubles, 10 RBIs and 11 runs.
He had on-base, slugging, on-base plus slugging and fielding percentages of .534, .612, 1.146 and .989.
Wilson committed just one error on defense.
“The ways he contributed this year were a surprise,” Goblirsch said. “When he wasn’t catching, he played in the outfield. He found a rhythm at the plate. He had a lot of big hits for us. He led our team in batting average and extra base hits.”
Solis, a senior catcher/third baseman, batted .404 with one triple, four doubles, 16 RBIs, 14 runs and three stolen bases.
He had on-base, slugging, on-base plus slugging and fielding percentages of .477, .508, .986 and .980, respectively.
Solis made just two errors.
“We’re very happy with his growth in the program,” Goblirsch said. “He got so much bigger and stronger because of the work he put in.”
Vega, a senior outfielder, batted .357 with one triple, three doubles, six RBIs, 18 runs and five stolen bases.
He had on-base, slugging and on-base plus slugging percentages of .585, .476 and 1.061.
Vega was hit by a pitch a team-high 11 times.
“He was the backbone of our team,” Goblirsch said. “He was a leader. He wasn’t an individual guy. He wanted what was best for the team.”