Norco baseball coach Gary Parcell knows a thing or two about athletes in both sports. After all, he coached one of the best Toby Gerhart, a football/baseball star during his high school days for the Cougars. Now he has another in junior Grant Gray, who catches passes as a standout receiver and punches and punches as a standout center back.
In Game 1 of an important three-game Big VIII League series against Corona on Monday, Gray went four-for-four, including three hits with two strikes, to help Norco beat the Panthers 8-7 at Corona.
“As Grant goes, we go,” Parcell said.
As Norco’s leadoff hitter, with excellent speed, Gray kickstarted the Cougars’ offense (17-3, 5-2). He has seven colleges that want him to play football and baseball. Cameron Kim, a junior shortstop hired from UCLA, is trying to get him to join the Bruins. Gray is scheduled to attend spring football practice and then a baseball game in Westwood later this month.
“I’ve been struggling lately, 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 an RBI single and double on Monday, giving him 35 on the season and a batting average over .500. He’s not just shooting bullets anymore. This is the secret of its improvement. It strikes in all areas.
Both teams struggled defensively at times, but Norco found batting on counts of 3 and 2 for Corona ace Ethan Schiefelbein to throw too many pitches. He left after four rounds. He struck out eight and also hit a two-run homer.
Norco held an 8-5 lead late in the seventh. Kai Hopfel hit a two-run home run, but Anthony Conner closed the game and got the stoppage.
Sophomore Sam Burgess went four-for-four to lead Corona (11-5, 4-3).
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.