By John Philip Wyllie
While their season ended Tuesday afternoon one game short of their goal of playing at Tony Gwynn Stadium for a CIF title, coach Manny Hermosillo and his Montgomery High Baseball Team have a lot to be proud of. Riding the arm of Bradley Procopio, one of the county’s top pitchers, perennial South Bay League Champions lost just once during league play this season (2-1 to Hilltop on 4-20). Their series split with the Lancers and their identical 9-1 league records resulted in a Montgomery-Hilltop South Bay League co-championship. At 24-9-1, the Aztecs were ranked among the county’s Top 20.
Among the many players responsible for the Aztecs’ strong showing were senior left fielder Ivan Mora and junior shortstop Juan Moriel. Coincidentally, Mora and Moriel with two runs each were the only two Aztecs to cross the plate in Tuesday’s 7-4 loss to eighth ranked Grossmont.
Both Mora and Moriel have been playing for many years. They have a strong sense of Montgomery’s tradition of excellence.
“My parents got me active in sports when I was little to keep me out of trouble,” Moriel said. “I grew up watching my brother play. I was the bat boy for his team and I was always following him around. I started in Tee-Ball when I was about six years old.”
Through the years, Moriel has been constantly improving. As a cornerstone of the Aztecs defense this season he was nearly flawless in the field. At the plate, he clouted a pair of home runs, had 10 doubles and sported a healthy .353 average.
Using his speed, Mora did an outstanding job of running down fly balls in the Aztec outfield. His .356 batting average was second only to team leader Brandon Mer-edith (.413). Offensively, Mora contributed 12 RBIs, two doubles and two triples.
“I tried to be productive for the team hitting in the number two spot,” he said. “Coming through with bunts was one of the things that I enjoyed doing the most.”
Both Mora and Moriel intend to continue playing. Moriel will be a senior for the Aztecs next season. Naturally, he will be expected to assume more of a leadership role. Mora hopes to continue his career at Southwestern College next spring. They both admire and are inspired by the two former Aztecs that are playing in the big leagues: utility infielder Oscar Robles with the Padres and pitcher Sergio Mitre with the Florida Marlins.
“These guys went to the same high school that I am going to, so it gives me more hope that I can be there someday too. They came from the same situation and have had some of the same struggles that I have had.”