Norco baseball coach Gary Parcell knows something about two-sport athletes. After all, he coached one of the best in Toby Gerhart, a football/baseball standout during his high school days for the Cougars. Now he has another in junior Grant Gray, who catches passes as a standout receiver and hits and fields as a standout center fielder.
On Monday in the first game of an important three-game Big VIII League series against Corona, Gray went four for four, including three hits with two strikes, to help Norco defeat the Panthers 8-7 at Corona.
“As Grant goes, we go,” Parcell said.
As Norco’s leadoff hitter, with excellent speed, Gray gets the Cougars’ (17-3, 5-2) offense going. He has seven colleges wanting to let him play football and baseball. Cameron Kim, a junior shortstop committed to UCLA, is trying to get him to join him with the Bruins. Gray is scheduled to go watch a spring football practice, then a baseball game in Westwood later this month.
“I’ve been struggling recently, but I knew I had to be at my best,” Gray said.
Kim is a story himself. He had 33 hits all last season as a sophomore. He had a single and RBI double on Monday, giving him 35 this season and a batting average above .500. He’s no longer just pulling balls. That’s the secret to his improvement. He’s hitting to all fields.
Both teams struggled defensively at times, but Norco came up with some clutch at-bats on 3-and-2 counts to make Corona ace Ethan Schiefelbein throw too many pitches. He was gone after four innings. He struck out eight and also hit a two-run home run.
Norco held an 8-5 lead going to the bottom of the seventh. Kai Hopfel hit a two-run home run, but Anthony Conner closed out the game and got the save.
Sophomore Sam Burgess went four for four to lead Corona (11-5, 4-3).