Exercising their options Plenty of choices for student-athletes at Scripps Ranch High By Don Norcross UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER 2:00 a.m. May 5, 2009 Down a ramp to the baseball field, in a herky-jerky motion refined in the Dominican Republic, Scripps Ranch junior Philip Walby retired the Morse Tigers in order. At approximately 3:07 p.m. last Thursday, Scripps Ranch High junior Chris Chan tossed a tennis ball skyward, arched his back and swatted a serve. A couple hundred yards away in a sunken-bowl setting on the school's rust-colored, synthetic track, freshman Bernard Bonner squatted into starting blocks, a baton in one hand, about to explode into the varsity 4x100 relay. Inside the old-school, two-level gymnasium, volleyballs slammed onto the floor. Back outside on the softball diamond, freshman pitcher Taylor Curran wiggled out of a first-inning jam. And down a ramp to the baseball field, in a herky-jerky motion refined in the Dominican Republic, Scripps Ranch junior Philip Walby retired the Morse Tigers in order. On a sun-kissed, 72-degree afternoon, with students walking about in sun dresses, shorts and flip-flops, an extraordinary number of athletic events unfolded simultaneously at Scripps Ranch. It's a scene repeated throughout the spring on dozens of high school campuses across the county. The chatterbox Ryan Thompson talks. And talks and talks and talks. Seemingly an endless stream of encouragement flows from the Scripps head baseball coach's mouth, toward his athletes, the effect being a positive vibe that seeps between his players' ears.
“Get on something, right now, Walb. Help yourself, kid. C'mon 8. Hammer something. See a line drive through. C'mon 8. Stay out of there. (Lay off a bad pitch). Flush it. (Forget about taking a strike). Box it up. (Think tight strike zone.) Stack it on, right now. Keep at 'em.” Regarding Thompson's personality, Walby said, “We always feel his energy. It really helps us.” That energy has been tested. The Falcons opened 11-1, then two key injuries set in and the Falcons lost eight of nine. But they hammered Morse 8-1 for their second straight win this day. The Falcons' female second baseman, Tori Torrescano, sees late defensive action and all is right in Falconland. More than 30 minutes after the last pitch, the music Thompson blasts over the PA system sounds a little sweeter as the head coach, hose in hand, waters down the infield.
Carpet-lined dugout From the white portable fence that lines the outfield to the green outfield grass to the dirt infield to the white chalked infield, Scripps'softball field is a kaleidoscope of colors.
Dirt brown, though, dominates, and to give the setting a softer look, coach Mary Jo Griswold laid down green synthetic turf in the dugouts this year. “Mainly,” said Griswold, “so we can get off the dirt.” Griswold may be doing her best coaching job in this, her sixth season at the school. Last year's team reached the section finals behind Rachel Brown, now at Harvard, who struck out a section-record 400 batters. This year's team is babyish young: no seniors, three juniors, nine sophomores and two freshmen. And yet the team boasts a 14-6-2 record. “For the first time in a real long time, it's completely a team with a lot of chemistry,” Griswold said. “We're small but incredibly scrappy.” Christian dealt the Falcons a 6-1 defeat, Scripps' third straight loss. There was a Kodak moment for the hosts. A left-handed Christian hitter slapped a slicing fly ball to left field. Megan Girdner came sprinting in and as the ball sliced into foul territory, Girdner stuck out her right hand and caught the ball before crashing into the chain-link fence. At the end of the inning, Christian's third-base coach turned to Girdner and said, “Nice catch, kid.”
San Diego State Pitcher
Junior Philip Walby delivers a pitch during an 8-1 victory over Morse High. (Nelvin C. Cepeda / Union-Tribune)
Currently playing on the Scout team for Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay