Hometown Report

Franklin’s ace on diamond and in class has majors’ attention. ‘Sac State got a steal’

Franklin High School ace Evan Gibbons pitches against Davis on Thursday, May 3, 2018. The Sacramento State commit threw a one-hitter in the 11-1 victory and drove in five runs.
Franklin High School ace Evan Gibbons pitches against Davis on Thursday, May 3, 2018. The Sacramento State commit threw a one-hitter in the 11-1 victory and drove in five runs. hamezcua@sacbee.com

You know it's a banner baseball season when the ace is packing a GPA that towers over his ERA.

This is Evan Gibbons of Franklin High School.

The Sacramento State-bound senior sports an 0.99 ERA as the Wildcats ace, firing in fastballs that hit the radar guns in the low 90s with a nasty changeup and off-speed pitches to keep batters gassed and guessing.

But the numbers Gibbons feels especially proud about have been produced in the classroom, humming through honors courses in English, algebra, literature and physics in an academic setting where one must bring his best game or get swallowed whole.

"I maintained a 4.0 GPA all four years of high school, and that's a pretty big thing to me," Gibbons said with a reassuring smile. "I'm very proud of that."

It might be showing off, if it weren't Gibbons, who is polite, heaps praise on teammates and coaches and is too busy as a student-athlete to even have a girlfriend. He hauls around buddies in his 2004 Acura in another example of go-to Gibbons.

In short, he's a coach's dream. Just ask one.

"Oh man, is he awesome!" said Franklin coach Bryan Kilby, also the school's activities director. "We've had some really good players in our program over the years and he's definitely on the Mount Rushmore.

"I see him every day on campus, too. He's in our leadership program. He's a real leader on campus, and he's in my classroom every day, either working, having lunch. How can you not root for a kid like this?"

Said assistant coach Mike Cody, "His commitment to do well is amazing."

Gibbons said he will feel at home at Sac State, which has built championship rosters in recent years under coach Reggie Christiansen with local talent, but what position he plays is still up in the air. He can do a little bit of everything.

"I think he can play every position out here except maybe catcher," said assistant coach Brad Kilby, brother of Coach Kilby.

At 6-foot and 190 pounds, Gibbons is still growing and filling out, meaning his 93-mph fastball expects to get better. He is also a superb shortstop and packs a mighty bat in the middle of the lineup, as evidenced by the home run he crushed earlier this week against Sheldon and the five runs he drove in on Thursday against Davis when he fired a one-hitter with seven strikeouts in an 11-1 win that moved his record to 5-1.

Gibbons is batting .348 with 22 RBIs, 18 runs, five doubles, four triples and two homers for the Bee-ranked No. 2 Wildcats, who play No. 3 Jesuit twice next week to close the regular season.

"I love this game," Gibbons said. "Every part of it. I know a lot of this game is mental. Baseball is a great way to release all your stress."

Major-league scouts have taken notice.

"Teams are interested," Bryan Kilby said. "Sometimes there are two or three scouts at a game, sometimes more, sometimes less. His fastball command is so good, and he's hit 93, so he humps it in there well. He's also a great fielder and hitter.

"Evan's a bulldog. Loves to compete, whether it's in the weight room, base-running drills, hitting in the cages. You can't teach that. You've either got it or you don't, and he's got it."

Gibbons is the son of a retired CHP officer, Kevin Gibbons, and an accountant, Raechelle Gibbons. His dad introduced him to baseball, starting with T-ball, and pop is still so enthralled with this sport he can be spotted at the Franklin field grooming the grass – anything to help out. Gibbons' brother Lucas is on the Franklin freshman team.

"My parents are great," Gibbons said. "Dad can't get enough."

Gibbons wants to play baseball until someone tells him he no longer can. After that, he would like to get into the medical field, perhaps as a physical therapist.

Brad Kilby – who pitched at Laguna Creek and for a spell with the River Cats and the A's – loves Gibbons' upside and work ethic.

"Even in the summer, it's 110 degrees out here, and he's in the cages working. Sac State got a steal," he said. "He has as good of a breaking ball as any high school kid I've ever seen, since J.P. Howell of Jesuit (who pitched 12 Major League Baseball seasons). It's that good. We worked on his mechanics a little last summer and he's taken off."

Gibbons started the season with a 2-0 perfect game against Vacaville, striking out 15. The school record-holder in strikeouts, Gibbons earned a 2-1 victory at top-ranked Elk Grove with 11 strikeouts and has lost only to state powerhouse Bellarmine of San Jose in the Northern California finals of the Boras Tournament.

"We have a lot of confidence when he takes the mound," Bryan Kilby said.

Said Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson, "I like the way he works quick on the mound and pounds the strike zone. You can tell he wants the ball in any situation and he believes he can get the batter out."

Said Gibbons, "I love the pressure of this game. I love to compete. I live for it."

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