The Roosevelt High baseball team is aiming for a return to Dodger Stadium

When Lino Zepeda takes the 10-minute walk from his family home in Boyle Heights carrying his backpack full of books and baseball bag full of gear, it’s like taking a peek back in time to when everyone lived close enough and felt safe enough to walk to their neighborhood school.

There are few communities in Los Angeles more loyal, proud, and family-oriented than Boyle Heights, home of Roosevelt High.

Zepeda is the 6-foot 2 senior pitcher hoping to take Roosevelt to the one place nearby he adored more than high school: Dodger Stadium.

Roosevelt hasn’t played a City final since 2001, the year the Rough Riders lost to Chatsworth in a memorable 2-1 match that ended in a controversial third strike called 3 and 2 step with draw and winning runs on base.

Zepeda and the outstanding junior catcher Matias Nolasco were waiting for the start of the City’s Open Division playoffs. They will be in the spotlight on Tuesday when No. 5-seeded Roosevelt hosts the No. 7 Reseda Cleveland, with the winner advancing on Friday to face Palisades in the quarter-finals.

“I feel we have heart. We have a great bond, “Zepeda said.

Roosevelt played three of the four seeded players and lost in close matches to No. 1 Granada Hills 1-0, n. 3 Woodland Hills El Camino Real 3-2 and n. 4 Palisades 2-0. Rough Riders have to believe in themselves. This is where Zepeda and Nolasco come in: they are talented leaders and players.

Zepeda has been a top-ranked student since middle school. His older brother pitched for the 2018 Roosevelt team. His father went to Roosevelt. He has aunts and uncles who went to Roosevelt. He knows you’re not just playing for Roosevelt, you’re playing for Boyle Heights with teammates who grew up down the block.

Zepeda has greatly improved as a launcher, throwing more shots with better speed. He spent the off season working on long balls and hitting the weight room. He has a 6-3 record with an ERA of 1.75.

Standing next to the 5-foot-5 Nolasco, he looks like a giant. Don’t underestimate Nolasco, who has deceptive pop in his club and has hit four home runs with an average of .375 batting.

“He’s a great hitter, man,” Zepeda said. “So knowledgeable about baseball and he brings so much to the team. He has power. “

Nolasco seems to live in the weight room, which makes him strong with club, arm and glove.

“He’s a baseball mouse,” said coach Ray Ruiz. “He loves to constantly go out and train, he constantly tries to improve. He understands the game. It’s like having a coach on the pitch. “

The pitcher and the catcher are two of the most important positions for a team to win a championship in high school baseball. Roosevelt is set there. Now it’s about convincing others to raise their level of play as they try to secure a place in the City final on May 28 at Dodger Stadium.

“Everyone is obsessed with the Dodgers,” Nolasco said. “That would be an incredible feeling and, to be honest, I feel we have the team for it.”

Don’t expect to see tiny Nolasco take on Zepeda in a one-on-one match at Roosevelt’s gym.

“Lino is tall,” Nolasco said. “He crushed me and it looks like LeBron James is playing Kevin Hart.”