Norco Baseball makes historic run in playoffs


Gary Evans

Jacob Williams, Editor-In-Chief

On Saturday, May 18th at Dodger Stadium, Norco High baseball played their biggest game in school history.

Let’s take a step behind and reflect on the Cougars’ miracle season. “When I was looking for a pitching coach, there were two things I was scared about telling him: one, he was going to get paid less and two, our pitching is going to be our weakness this season,” says Coach Parcell explaining how difficult it was going to compete with the pitching staff that Norco had coming into the season. Although it was going to be a long ride, Coach Rose took the job with arms spread wide about the situation and was ready to dive right into the season.

The pitching staff consisted of Michael Forbes, coming into the season as a question mark, not knowing what to expect out of him. He posted a 14.00 earned run average in 2018 in one appearance. Next was Jarred Barbour. Coach Rios said he had “high hopes” for Barbour and in the fall season, the excelled every time he took the mound. Following Barbour was starting catcher, Justin Drury. “One of the hardest things to do in baseball is go on the mound for five innings and catch for two or vice-versa,” stated Coach Rose about how Drury impressed him so much this season. Last but certainly not least is Martin Delgado. Delgado looks like a complete different person on the mound. In the dugout or anywhere, he is always smiling and full of emotion, whereas on the mound he is a bulldog and fearless.

Norco’s pitching staff was their weakness, but by the end of the season, they became their strength. Forbes had an historic season posting a 1.28 earned run average over the course of eighty-seven and two thirds innings pitched. He went 9-1 and struck out eighty-three batters. He became one of the best pitchers Norco High has ever seen. Not only did Forbes perform but the whole pitching staff combined for a 1.68 earned run average with 192 strikeouts in 225 innings. It is going to be amazing how well Delgado and Drury develop as the years go on since they are both so young.

Just because Norco’s strength was pitching, their hitting was just as strong. Chris Conniff, Bryce Cermenelli, and Stewart Slessor became the Cougar’s best hitters this season. Conniff batted .367 with thirty-six hits and led the teams in doubles with eleven. Cermenelli hit .336 with thirty-six hits as well and became Norco’s all-time leader in at bats. Slessor led the team in average with .372 with a home-run against Villa Park in the playoffs. Other notable hitters were Melenik Israel, Michael Forbes, and Blake Christopher.

Norco blasted their way through the playoffs with wins against Don Lugo, St. Bonaventure, Villa Park, and Crescenta Valley. Soon enough they were on the bus heading to Dodger Stadium.

In the end, it was down to the final two teams, Norco vs. Santa Margarita. Santa Margarita was throwing their second best pitcher Matt Mcclure and Norco was throwing none other than Michael Forbes. It was a pitcher’s duel the whole game. Cermenelli went 3-5, a home run shy of the cycle. Both teams left the bases loaded at least once, causing the fans to be at the edges of their seats. It all came down to an error made by Slessor in the top of the twelfth with one out. Next, as Delgado was pitching, a deep fly ball was hit to Forbes, making an acrobatic catch. Fox Sports West announcers said it was a replica of the famous Willie Mays catch. After the catch, the runner from third on Santa Margarita tagged up and scored. Norco was not able to provide a run in the bottom of the inning, and Santa Margarita became the Division two champions.

Although it wasn’t the turnout Norco wanted, the experience during the playoffs and getting the chance to play at Dodger Stadium was a memory we will not forget. Congratulations to Norco Baseball on making it to the championship, this has only been accomplished once before in Norco history. It will be exciting what the future holds for Norco Baseball with so much talent left. We will see if Norco can make it back to one of the oldest ballparks in America for the championship in 2020. Keep your heads up high and we will see you next year!