The Malibu Times Athletes of the Week

Jordan Simon and Matt Gruskin, MHS baseball

By Dick Dornan / Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu High baseball team is off to a great start this season due in large in part to the leadership and ability of the squad’s six seniors. Each of them has had moments that have contributed mightily to the team’s best start since 2008. Two of those stars have been Jordan Simon and Matt Gruskin, who have played a vital role in the Sharks’ resurgence.

The pair has played baseball on the same team in nine out of the last 10 years dating back to their days in Malibu Little League. At MHS, Simon bats second in the lineup with Gruskin batting in the third slot. Together they form a potent one-two punch that has contributed greatly to the team’s strong start.

“They have been playing together for so long that they provide the nice piece of our team bonding and team togetherness,” Malibu Coach Ari Jacobs said. “They have really stepped up for us and are playing real good ball. They are both our senior captains and are having such stellar years so far.”

Simon, 18, leads Malibu (12-4) with a .515 batting average, .682 slugging percentage, 34 hits, 24 runs and 14 stolen bases. Gruskin, 17, is batting .396 and is second on the team with four wins on the mound as first pitcher in the team’s pitching rotation.

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Recently, Simon and Gruskin each experienced a game of a lifetime that would have had the baseball gods smiling in seventh heaven and statisticians reveling in pure ecstasy.

After a disappointing 17-9 loss at the hands of Oaks Christian on the first day of Tri-Valley League play, Simon and the Sharks bounced back to exact their revenge with a performance worthy of being seen on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Simon went 5 for 5, with a triple and three RBIs, scored five runs and stole four bases as Malibu thumped Oaks Christian on the Lions’ home field 16-8.

“My approach to the plate was to hit line drives,” Simon said. “That was probably my best game ever at the plate. As a whole unit, it was the best game that I have ever been a part of in my life.”

The significant win broke a seven-game losing streak to the Lions and more importantly has propelled MHS to a 3-1 start in league play.

“They came out with their swag thinking they were going to beat us again. We dropped 12 runs in the first inning and from there we just played well the rest of the game,” said Simon, who has signed to play at the University of Nevada next year. “It was a great way to leave Oaks Christian. Beating them badly on their field and leaving them with that goodbye was awesome. It was the most confident I have ever seen our team.”

The Sharks’ coach felt the win could have an impact even beyond this season.

“That was sort of a sign that there may be a little bit of a changing of the guard,” coach Jacobs said. “To get a split with them was good and not to just beat them but pretty handily is obviously a confidence builder for the guys. Any time you beat Oaks in anything is great.”

Two weeks later, MHS traveled to San Diego for the “Lions Spring Break Classic Tournament.” Malibu prevailed in its first two games; an 8-6 win against Cathedral City and a 15-1 smashing against High Tech of Chula Vista.

Gruskin, on the heels of a 2-for-16 slump entering the tournament, singled in the game-winning run against Cathedral City, but he was just getting started. The next day he went 5 for 5 at the plate against High Tech. On the mound he pitched a complete game, allowing just five hits and striking out nine batters in the blowout victory.

Jacobs described it as “a day truly for the ages.” Gruskin was named All-Tournament after finishing 10 for 13 with two doubles, six runs and seven RBIs.

“Coach Jacobs pointed out that I had as many hits that I allowed to the other team,” said Gruskin, who hopes to walk-on at the University of Oregon. “That was pretty cool. It was probably my best game ever as well.”

Ironically, Simon and Gruskin each had eight consecutive hits during their individual streaks. Together they will attempt to lead Malibu to its first league title since 2005.

“It’s a pretty good feeling. I don’t want to ride the highs too high,” Simon said. “We got to keep working hard. We are in a great position to do it. I love this team and I’m having a great time. If we can win a league championship, that would be the best gift for our senior year.”

“We need to keep our underdog approach. Keep confident but not get too cocky,” Gruskin added. “We know deep down we will work harder than our opponents and that ultimately will help us win games.”

13StarsManager
13StarsManagerhttps://malibutimes.com
The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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