May 20, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Fullerton blasts two home runs to get past Burroughs and reach CIF regional final

Fullerton players and coaches celebrate after Thursday’s victory. (Photos: OC Sports Zone, Tom Connolly).

Conor Sunderland and Kyle Kim homered and Matthew Carbajal came on in relief to close the door and propel Fullerton High School’s baseball team to a 10-6 victory over Burroughs Thursday afternoon at Fullerton High in a CIF Southern California Division IV Regional semifinal game.

The Indians (26-9) advance to the finals on Saturday and will face the winner of Friday’s Tesoro/Moreno Valley semifinal.                                                                     

Carbajal slowed the Burroughs attack by limiting the Bears to one hit over the final 2 1/3 innings. He was supported by some outstanding defensive plays behind him.

Indians catcher Nate Norman gunned down a Bears runner trying to steal second base for the third out of the fifth inning and Sunderland threw a strike from right field to Kyle Kim at third base to cut down a Burroughs runner for the final out in the sixth inning.

“It was the first time I pitched in two months, but I felt confident,” Carbajal said. “I was a little nervous and excited when I went in, but I found my zone and it feels great to help us win.”

Sunderland and Kyle Kim were the key for the Indians.  

“We came out strong and it feels good that our last game is going to be the championship game,” said Sunderland, who had two hits and two RBI. 

“It’s great that we get a second chance to be champions,” said Kim.

The game was filled with standout defensive plays, including a triple play, multiple home runs, clutch hitting and savvy baserunning.   

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Burroughs did pull off a triple play. In the fourth inning, after Fullerton had already scored three runs, Andrew Violet was hit-by-a-pitch and then George Papadatos singled. Zach Fany followed by hitting a line shot that Bears second baseman Nate Chapman snagged, threw the ball to shortstop Steve Suarez to double off Violet at second and then relayed his throw to first to get Papadatos to complete the triple play.  

Sunderland clouted his seventh home run of the season in the first inning off Burroughs starter Devin McGivern to give Fullerton a 1-0 lead.

After the Bears pushed across two runs in the third to take a 2-1 lead, Kyle Kim belted his first home run of the season, a two-run shot, in the bottom of the fourth inning, capping a three-run rally, allowing Fullerton to retake the lead, 4-2.

But the Bears rallied behind Andrew Chapman three-run homer and scored four times in the top of the fifth to regain the lead at 6-4.

DJ Garcia and Carlos Barrios led off the bottom of the  fifth inning for Fullerton with a bunt single and two-strike single respectively that set the table for an RBI double by Matt Kim and a sacrifice RBI fly by Norman. The Indians scored three times and retook the lead at 7-6.

“We were down two runs and I was leading off the inning and I knew I had to get on base and I saw the third baseman playing back, so I bunted on my own,” said Garcia.

Barrios then followed with a clutch two-strike hit to right center. “I’ve been in a slump for the last three games, so I needed to get the barrel of the bat on the ball.”

Norman, who had four RBI, blasted a two-out three-run double in the sixth inning to add crucial insurance runs. Carbajal set the Bears down in order to close out the game and send the Indians to the state final for the first time school’s history.

“I knew we could do it; we showed great teamwork,” said Norman, the 2022 MVP of the Freeway League. “In the sixth inning, I got close to the plate and shortened up my swing and got over on the ball. It felt really good.”

“It was a wild game,” said Indians Coach Shaun Hill. “Our guys stayed calm and never panicked. We’re playing in the final game of the season and we need to finish it off. When they get back together for reunions in 20 years, they’ll never forget this game.”

Bears Coach Matt Magallon credited the Indians.

“We made mistakes and they didn’t; they deserved to win and I give Fullerton credit,” said Magallon, whose team won the CIF Division V championship and finished the season at 23-12. Chapman had three hits, including a home run and five RBI for Burroughs.

Click here for Saturday’s championship schedule:

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone