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On the rise

Tyler French seemed to do it all Friday afternoon during the Bear River baseball team’s 17-0 regular-season ending triumph at home against Colfax.

Not only did the senior left-hander pitch a complete game shutout, striking out 13 of the 18 batters he faced, he also hit a grand slam during an 11-run third inning in an 85-minute contest shortened to five innings due to the 10-run rule.

Furthermore, Bear River coach Mike Viola pointed out that French did more than help himself win one ball game.



“Tyler helped himself a lot today,” Viola said. “There were a good six pro scouts here watching Robby (Alcombrack) and Tyler, and he definitely helped himself.”

Then again, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound French has done nothing but help himself and the Bruins during what has turned into a breakout season for both.




French has compiled a 10-0 overall record and has allowed just seven earned runs in 63 innings for a 0.78 earned run average. He has allowed 27 hits (opposing batters are hitting .109 against him) and 29 walks to go with 106 strikeouts. Friday’s shutout was his third of the season.

It was among his best outings because French had his four pitches working well – fastball, split finger fastball, curveball and changeup. His fastball has been clocked in the high 80s this season, and on Friday, he looked even faster.

“I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he wasn’t touching 90,” Bear River coach Mike Viola said.

And the split finger never looked better than it did to get a called strike three to end the fourth inning.

“I feel comfortable throwing any of my pitches at any time in the count,” French said.

French is also part of a hot-hitting lineup in which eight regulars are hitting .429 or better. Senior catcher Robby Alcombrack, who has received attention from scouts and college recruiters all spring, leads the way with his .538 average, 10 home runs and 38 RBIs. French isn’t far behind with his .475 average, four homers and 32 RBIs. Senior outfielder and leadoff hitter Matt Miraldi carries a .474 average and has scored a team-high 37 runs.

Credit a lot of work invested during the offseason. French wanted to improve on his junior season numbers from 2005 – 4-3 with 40 hits and 27 walks allowed in 46.2 innings – and he went right to work after the end of the spring season last year.

“I worked out all summer and through the fall,” French said. “I worked out five days a week and it was all building up to this season.”

Big difference? Just ask Viola, who pointed out that French worked out with sophomore pitcher Vince Viola and Miraldi during the offseason.

“Huge difference and all the credit goes to his offseason work,” the Bear River coach said. “They were going down to the Gold Gym in Natomas and started on a workout program Al Biancani (longtime Sacramento Kings and Monarchs strength and conditioning coach) put together.

“Ballplayers are built in the offseason,” he added. “These guys came into this season prepared and it’s showed. Their core strength was better, their stamina and endurance has increased, and their fastballs were a good four to six miles per hour faster.”

All the work showed up and the rewards were seen immediately on March 1 when the Bruins opened their season with a 19-0 win at Marysville. And again, the reward was more than just winning a single game.

“Robby started the whole thing because a couple of scouts came out to watch him play that first game,” coach Viola said. “Tyler threw three perfect innings, and from there, the word started to get out.”

That work ethic applied to the entire team and it has shown during a season in which the Bruins are now 21-1 and co-Pioneer Valley League champions heading into the section playoffs which start on Saturday with a noon contest against Capital Valley Conference champion Vanden at Pat McAuliffe Memorial Park in Sacramento.

Friday’s win against Colfax typified what French described as a team effort.

“It always helps a lot when your team goes out and scores a lot of runs. Then you don’t have to worry,” he said. “Our defense is really good, and of course, we have an awesome catcher (Alcombrack).”

As for those scouts watching behind the backstop, French isn’t all that concerned. In fact, his plans for the future are still wide open.

“I’m not sure yet. I’ve been talking to some schools and a J.C. would be fine,” he said. “To me, that would be just as good as a four-year school or the draft. That would give me more of an opportunity to get better and for more people to see me.”

In the meantime, French and the Bruins are focused on one goal.

“We have an awesome team,” he said. “Section championship … that’s definitely our goal.”

ooo

To contact sports editor Dave Price, e-mail davidp@theunion.com or call 477-4240.


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