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High School | General | 1/28/2022

OLu Gearing Up for Special Spring

Blake Dowson     
Photo: Derek Curiel (left), Mikey Romero (right)
There are certain problems you don’t mind dealing with as a baseball coach.
 
Orange Lutheran (Calif.) Head Coach Eric Borba has one of those problems. Ben Reiland, a sophomore on his varsity baseball team, has to play out of position this year. There are others, too. Reiland, the No. 39 overall prospect in the 2024 class, is a natural shortstop. The problem (if you can call it that without cracking up) is that Mikey Romero, a Perfect Game All-American, already plays shortstop.
 
Reiland will have to patrol the outfield instead.
 
“We move some guys around at times,” Borba said. “But the nice thing about it is that we’ve got some pretty good athletes. They’re open to doing it, and physically they’re capable of doing it.”
 
The roster at Orange Lutheran looks eerily similar to what Perfect Game All-Tournament Teams during the big summer events look like – an LSU commit here, a Duke commit there, TCU and Texas commits sprinkled in.
 
Romero is the headliner in the senior class. The No. 23 overall prospect in the 2022 class is committed to play at LSU, if he doesn’t get grabbed up in the MLB Draft first. Oliver Santos, the No. 6 left-handed pitcher in the ’22 class, transferred into Orange Lutheran this year. Karson Bowen, No. 78 overall in the class, will catch. He, Gabriel Miranda, and Louis Rodriguez are all really tight-knit. They all decided to go play at TCU together.
 


Borba’s son, Casey Borba, is a Texas commit in the junior class. Casey led the team in RBI last year and sits at No. 131 overall in the 2023 class.
 
And then there’s sophomore Derek Curiel, the team’s starting center fielder and No. 1 overall player in the 2024 class. Curiel just committed to play at LSU about a week ago.
 
It adds up to something Borba doesn’t think he’s seen at Orange Lutheran in his 14 years.
 
“Honestly, I think [this team] is as good if not better than any I’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s a pretty strong roster throughout. The balance offensively and on the mound is better than we’ve ever had.”
 
The depth of the group is as impressive as the All-Americans and Select Festival alums on the roster. Not counting any player already mentioned, Orange Lutheran has eight additional players ranked as top-500 prospects by PG.
 
There are only so many spots on a lineup card, of course. The guys in the dugout could be stars at most other high school programs, and Borba knows that.
 
But the team has bought into the notion that they could be headed toward something special this year, and that it will take the staff ace, the leadoff man, the last guy on the bench, and everyone in between to get there.
 
“We talk constantly about how every person has got to be a motor and not an anchor,” Borba said. “Whether you’re playing or not, you’re part of something special here at Orange Lutheran. You get to be around a great group of guys, and at the same time, you have to be ready to go because with our schedule, we’ll have a lot of guys with special skills that we’ll use in certain situations.”
 
The schedule Borba referenced is the Trinity League, quite possibly the most high-level and competitive league in the country. Along with Orange Lutheran at No. 1, it includes three other teams ranked inside the Perfect Game Preseason Top 50 – JSerra (No. 8), Santa Margarita (No. 23), and Servite (No. 25). Perennial powers Mater Dei and St. John Bosco are also members.
 
Truthfully, it makes it necessary to have the Romeros and Santos and Curiels of the world on your roster just to survive that gauntlet. Your depth will surely be tested.
 
“Number one, you’ve got to stay healthy,” Borba said. “It’s five weeks, three games a week. Series format, just like college baseball. You miss a couple guys for a week and it can really put you behind the 8-ball…Number two is understanding there is going to be a lot of adversity you’re dealing with, especially offensively. You’re facing some of the best pitchers in the country. You can have a 0-for-4 night and a 1-for-12 week and you can’t let it hurt you. That’s going to happen to the best hitters at times.”
 
Orange Lutheran lost Curiel for about the last month of last season due to an injury. He’s healthy now, and will be one of the better players in the Trinity League this spring.
 
Curiel is a coach’s dream; a hard-working, lefty-swinging, rangy center fielder with developing power and a desire to get a little better every day.
 




If he were healthy at the end of last season, who knows what would have happened. The team still ended up 30-6 overall and second in the Trinity League at 13-2.
 
“He’s a special talent who can do everything on the baseball field,” Borba said. “It seems like when he’s struggling with something, he fixes it right away. He’s very coachable, extremely gifted, a tremendous runner and center fielder, and he’s going to hit one, two, or three in our order every day.”
 
As far as end goals for this spring, it’s hard not to think about league and section titles with a roster like Borba has in his dugout each game.
 
After a first round win over Grossmont in the playoffs last year, their season ended at the hands of JSerra, so some revenge there would be nice.
 
Borba preaches process over outcome, though. He knows the challenges that playoff baseball in California brings. He wants to see his players consistently working to get better, that’s about it.
 
“To measure success, it’s about how we go about playing the game and how we compete every day,” he said. “I try not to be one who looks at record at the end of the year. When you’re talking about California baseball, it’s single elimination, you don’t get home field advantage. You can do everything right and you run into a pitcher who’s lights out that day and it can end your season.
 
“So it’s consistency. Coming to the field each day and playing at a high level and competing our tails off is really how we measure success. If we look back and say we gave it everything we have, that’s way more important than that final game of the year.”
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