All-Empire Large School Baseball: Big decision looms for Casa’s Christy

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Casa Grande senior Francis Christy (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Casa Grande senior Francis Christy (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Take a look at our All-Empire first team, and the point becomes crystal clear: This was the Year of the Pitcher in large school baseball, with arms dominating both the North Bay League and Sonoma County League.

But someone had to catch those pitchers. And occasionally, someone had to hit them. No one did those things better than Casa Grande catcher Francis Christy, our All-Empire Player of the Year.

“All that talent Casa had, he was probably the glue that kept it together,” Maria Carrillo coach Derek DeBenedetti said. “You couldn’t run on them. Because of his arm, it limited your options trying to move runners over. Obviously, he had the most power in the league as a hitter. He was just a tough out.”

Yes, Christy has it all — which might explain the steady stream of MLB and college scouts who made their way to the Gauchos’ games this year. At least one of them was mightily impressed; the Oakland A’s selected Christy in the 37th round of the amateur draft.

That has presented Christy, a lifelong A’s fan, with yet another difficult decision: enter the Oakland minor-league system, or play at the University of Oregon on a 75-percent scholarship. He has until Aug. 15 to decide.

This is not Christy’s first baseball-related dilemma. A year ago, Oregon offered him a 100-percent scholarship — if he were willing to get his GED, leave high school a half-year early and play for the Ducks in 2013.

Christy delighted Casa Grande sports fans and chose to remain on campus. It would be hard to argue with his choice after the season the Gauchos had. They dominated their first year in the NBL, going 13-1 in league and 27-3 overall, and securing the top seed in the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs before falling to Campolindo in the championship game.

That sort of season didn’t seem to be in the cards at the outset.

“We lost Kevin George, our No.1 pitcher, on the first day of the season, and we didn’t lose again for more than two months,” Casa Grande coach Paul Maytorena said. “A lot of that had to do with (Christy’s) leadership.”

Christy led the Gauchos in batting average (.423), hits (41) and runs (30), and tied for the team lead with 19 RBIs. He hit all six of the Gauchos’ home runs in 2013.

“We knew how to pitch to him, but he’ll hit a good pitch,” Cardinal Newman coach T.J. McMahon said. “One game against us he was 0-for-3, and the fourth time up, he just kind of barreled it and hit a double away.”

And athletic? How many 6-foot-2, 220-pound catchers bat leadoff and steal 11 bases?

“He’s pretty fast, but really it’s just instincts,” Maytorena said. “Runners on first base and third base, he’ll score from third if you throw to second. Anytime he’s between the stripes, he puts pressure on you.”

Donning the gear only increases Christy’s value at the next level (whatever that happens to be). He’s a good defensive catcher, and his arm is not to be trifled with. The kid is durable, too.

“He caught every inning of every game this year,” Maytorena said. “And he put up numbers when he had to. It was a testament to his hard work. He made it real enjoyable.”

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.

ALL-EMPIRE LARGE-SCHOOL BASEBALL

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Francis Christy, Casa Grande, Sr.

FIRST TEAM
Anthony Bender, P/SS, Casa Grande, Sr.
Jimmy Flatt, P, Sonoma Valley, Jr.
Scott Hilbert, P/SS, Petaluma, Sr.
Garrett Hill, P/3B, Analy, Jr.
Darin Newman, SS, Analy, Sr.
Eric Parnow, P, Casa Grande, So.
Jeff Piver, P/Inf., Ukiah, Sr.
Jake Scheiner, SS, Maria Carrillo, Sr.
Andrew Vaughn, 2B/C, Maria Carrillo, Fr.

SECOND TEAM
Dan Deely, SS, Sonoma Valley, Jr.
Ryan Haug, C, Rancho Cotate, Sr.
Connor Littleton, P, Rancho Cotate, Jr.
Charlie Parnow, OF, Casa Grande, Sr.
James Proctor, P, Cardinal Newman, Sr.
Alec Rennard, P, Maria Carrillo, Sr.
Zach Scott, 1B, Maria Carrillo, Sr.
Jae Wagner, P, Analy, Jr.
Ryan Walsh, OF, Rancho Cotate, Sr.

THIRD TEAM
Vince Albano, OF, Sonoma Valley, Jr.
Troy Kennedy, 3B/P, Windsor, Jr.
Erik Owensen, OF, Cardinal Newman, Sr.
Blake Patrick, SS/2B, Petaluma, Sr.
Anthony Prince, P, Montgomery, Jr.
Alex Roeser, OF, Cardinal Newman, So.
Grant St. Martin, C, Analy, Jr.
Jonah Son, 1B, Sonoma Valley, Sr.
Austin Thomason, C, Petaluma, Jr.

COACH OF THE YEAR
Paul Maytorena, Casa Grande

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