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Gila Ridge grad Blake Avila riding the ups and down of college baseball

Blake Avila was part of Central Arizona's national championship team and then hit a homerun in his first game in the Alaska Baseball League, all in the month of June.

YUMA, Ariz. ( KYMA, KECY-TV ) - Blake Avila, a 2021 graduate of Gila Ridge high school is no stranger when it comes to success on the baseball diamond.

"I think it was 15U," Avila said. "National World Championship in Mexico City. So, I won a national championship in Mexico with my team Sonora, there was another local guy on that team, Isaac Ariaza from Yuma Catholic. Sonora hadn't won it in like 20 years and we went up there undefeated, one of the best teams I've ever been on besides Central [ Arizona ].

At Gila Ridge High School, Avila was on the 2019 team that made the state tournament. In 2021, the Hawks had another strong season but fell just short of the playoffs. From Yuma, Avila headed to Central Arizona College.

Avila knew he was going to a very good baseball program. The Vaqueros won the 2019 JUCO National Championship, then reached the championship game again in 2021 only to fall to McClennan. This year, Central Arizona again qualified for the JUCO World Series but out of the gates they dropped their first game in the double elimination tournament.

"That was pretty crazy, we made it tough on ourselves," Avila said. "I think we won like 10 elimination games throughout the whole year. I think we were used to that pressure. I don't think anyone was nervous after our first loss."

Avila started the season as a starter but played very little during the Vaqueros World Series run.

"When it came to playoffs, I don't know, I just couldn't hit very well," Avila said. "I just slumped, I was in a slump and the guy that came in after me, Tyrese [ Johnson ] he just got hot and started really hitting. He was hitting like .400 and that's what you do as a coach, you play your best guy at the time."

For anyone who has played baseball or is even an avid fan, that's just the way baseball goes sometimes. The highs and lows. You're zoned in and the game because easy. Other times you hit a slump where nothing seems to go right. For Central Arizona, they made all the right moves at the right time.

"Honestly you just can't believe it," Avila said. "When you're in the moment, it happens, you're just like wow we did it."

Soon after the emotions of winning a national baseball championship start to fade, the harsh reality of what the future holds slowly sinks in.

"The saddest thing was, after all that, you have to say goodbye to everybody when you get back," Avila said. "And you know you're probably not going to see all of them again. But, that's how it is."

Avila says every member of the Central Arizona baseball team leaves to play summer ball somewhere across the United States. For Blake Avila, his summer home is in Palmer, Alaska, as a member of the Mat-Su Miners in the Alaska Baseball League.

"Alaska was set up when I first got to Central in the fall," Avila said. "Our coach J.P. just said we're going to send you to Alaska. I was like whoa, okay, Alaska, we'll see what's up there. He told they have have a good league and he has some connections."

In his very first game in the Alaska Baseball League, Avila hit a homerun in his third at bat.

"That was pretty crazy to be honest," Avila said. "I think it was a 3-1 count and a close game. Two runners on, two outs, I said to myself if this guy gives me a fastball I'm just going to turn and burn. I hit a homerun and the crowd went crazy."

Blake will head back to Central Arizona this fall for his sophomore season. In Alaska, he currently leads the league in batting average at .359 through 14 games. Avila's Mat Su Miners are also in first place at 12-2 with a five game lead.

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Scott Gross

Scott Gross joins the KYMA team as the CBS 13 sports director and weather forecaster. Scott comes to the Desert Southwest all the way from Alaska where he covered the military and education beats for KTVA-TV & KTUU-TV.

Contact him at scott.gross@kecytv.com.

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