2016 So Cal Catch Summer Preview
LA MIRADA, California – April 27, 2016
Kicking off their fourth summer, the Southern California Catch promises another packed summer of baseball and ministry. Since 2013, the Catch has competed in the highly-competitive California Collegiate League consisting of 10 summer-league teams. Pending on the success of their season, the Catch will wrap up their 45-game regular season schedule with a three-day tournament at the end of July, playing against teams such as the San Luis Obispo Blues and the Santa Barbara Foresters.
After a two-game series against the Orange County Surf to start the season, the Catch hit the road to Palm Springs where they will take on the Palm Springs Power in a three-game series. Shortly after, the Catch will make their way up north to face both the Foresters and the Blues. During a weekend road trip, the Catch will play a solo game against the Foresters and later spend the weekend on the Central Coast playing a three-game set against the Blues.
Towards the end of June, the players and staff will take a break from baseball and head south the border for a mid-summer mission trip. As has been the team’s tradition, the Catch will spend three days in Mexico, building a house for a family in need. The players and staff will also run a four-week long baseball camp for a variety of different ages.
With the new season, the Catch welcomes new faces to their roster and coaching staff. Both head coach Jay Sullenger and assistant coach Dan Peters are excited for their first summer working with the Catch.
Sullenger is wrapping up his third season coaching for the Biola University Eagles. Prior to Biola, Sullenger gained valuable experience while playing for Liberty University and got a taste of NCAA Division I baseball. After graduating, Sullenger volunteered with the James Madison University Dukes baseball team as their assistant coach and worked his way through the ranks until he became the associate head coach in 2008.
After spending 11 seasons with the Dukes, consistently finishing towards the top of the Colonial Athletic Association, he spent the next two years working at Idlewild Baptist Church as the Minister of Recreational Outreach. His love for ministry naturally led him to accept the head coach position at Biola in 2014 and has been with the Eagles ever since.
Peters was born in Long Beach, California where he played on the varsity teams of both the baseball and basketball teams. During his four years at Millikan High School, Peters competed in the CIF Championships for both baseball and basketball. After graduating high school in 1971, Peters attended Long Beach City College for the next two years and continued to play basketball and baseball. While at Long Beach City College, Peters was a member of the State Championship basketball team and saw his baseball team to the championship finals in 1972.
Peters transferred to California State University, Fullerton after two years at Long Beach City College. Before graduating in 1975, Peters was a part of Fullerton’s first baseball team to reach the College World Series.
For the next few years after graduation, Peters would coach for a number of different schools such as Santa Ana Junior College, Long Beach City College and El Mondena High School, before settling down in his alma mater, Millikan High School.
Through his 23 seasons coaching Millikan’s varsity baseball team, Peters not only led the team to three CIF Division Championships and four finalist titles, but he also met his wife, Christa, and supported the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle. Peters is excited to spend his second summer of retirement working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Southern California Catch.
Returning from last summer and completing the Catch’s coaching staff is pitching coach and chaplain Kevin Marchael. At Wilson High School, Marchael played three years on the varsity baseball team. During that time, he faced future professional players such as Chase Utley, Milton Bradley and was teammates with Sean Burroughs. After helping his team to a 15-0 season in his senior year, an accomplishment no team in their league had done in 30 years, Marchael committed to California State University, Los Angeles.
During his four years playing at CSU Los Angeles, Marchael spent two summers pitching in the high-competitive Northwoods Summer League. Although he worked in construction after graduating in 2002, Marchael was eventually called back to baseball in 2007. Five years after graduating, Marchael took the head coach job at Millikan High School where he is currently coaching his tenth season with the Rams. Being involved in Millikan’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes program, Marchael and his wife, Jessica, are preparing to spend their summer serving God and working for the Catch.
Filling up the Catch’s roster are players from all over the country. While some players are coming to La Mirada from out of state, others have roots in Southern California. Right-handed pitcher Jimmy Gallarda, who is currently playing his third season with the Biola Eagles, is planning to pitch in his first season with the Catch this summer.
Shortly into his first season playing for Biola, Gallarda made the transition from relief to starting pitching and learned to play first base during his off days. Although the start to his junior season was not the best, Gallarda currently holds a 6-6 record and has won his last five starts in the midst of the Eagles’ play-off race.
Although they went their separate ways for college, catcher Jeff Murray and infielder Ethan Lopez were teammates at La Mirada High School. Murray is a sophomore and the starting catcher at Santa Ana College after building an impressive baseball resume in high school. During his four years at La Mirada, Murray was named Suburban League MVP, All-Area MVP and Athlete of the Year. Lopez also found success during his four years playing at La Mirada. He helped lead his team to back-to-back Suburban League Championships in 2013 and 2014 and was twice received first team all-area honors. Due to his stellar senior year, batting .374 with nine doubles, two triples and 14 stolen bases, Lopez earned third-team Cal-Hi Sports all-state honors to cap his impressive high school career. After graduating from La Mirada in 2015, Lopez committed to play for the University of Hawaii. Currently playing his freshman year, Lopez is hitting .200 with five hits and two runs.
In an effort to escape the heat of Arizona, infielders Austin Bull and Zach Malis will wrap up their season at Grand Canyon University Lopes and spend the summer with the Catch. Wrapping up his freshman year at Grand Canyon University, Bull is continuing the success he had in high school at the collegiate level. Throughout his four years at Perry High School, Bull held a career .371 batting average, topping out at .452 during his senior year. Not only that, but Bull stole 26 bases in 33 attempts, built a 18-game hitting streak during his senior year and led his team in average, runs scored, hits and stolen bases. As a Lope, he is currently batting .336 with eight stolen bases, 10 RBIs and 23 runs and has a chance to earn a spot on the Freshman All-American team.
Teammate and fellow infielder Malis is also finishing up his freshman season at Grand Canyon University. Before graduating high school Malis made sure he left his mark by breaking a number of school records. In the Arizona High School history book, Malis holds the records for career hits (215), career RBIs (222) and career runs scored (199). During his senior year, Malis ended his high school career by hitting .569 and driving in 64 RBIs. For three consecutive years, Malis received the Division IV player of the year award in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He appears to have adjusted well to the collegiate level, batting .303 with 13 runs and 15 RBIs so far in the season.
Catcher Jacob Colombo will be one of three catchers in the Catch’s roster. Hailing from the University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff, Colombo is in the middle a successful junior season. Through 19 games, Colombo is hitting .344 with 9 runs, 12 RBIs and 21 hits. He also has 117 putouts and only committed two errors.
Returning from last year is California Collegiate League All-Star infielder Josh Rojas. For the first two years after high school, Rojas played at Paradise Valley Community College where he was named an Arizona Community College Athletic Conference All-Star. As a sophomore, Rojas batted .333 with 35 RBIs and 39 runs. He also led the team with a .633 SLG and a .452 OPS.
With new faces and a new season, the start to the Catch’s 2016 summer is nearly a month away.
By Keaton Moore