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Modesto Babe Ruth’s run ends in regional title game

POSTED August 7, 2009 10:58 p.m.
The quest is over. Although it didn’t end with final victory; the Modesto Babe Ruth 16-18-year-old baseball team can look back at the season and know it was an action-packed ride. The players and coaches were just one win away from recapturing the glory and success they achieved in 2008.
The 2009 season concluded Tuesday night, when Modesto — which boasted a half-dozen players from Turlock and Denair and was coached by Pitman assistant Bobby Swedberg — fell 9-1 to the San Gabriel Valley All-Stars in the championship game of the Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament in Watsonville.
To reach this point, Modesto had to endure elimination game after elimination game.
“We were confident the whole week,” Swedberg said.
His team’s path to the championship game really started after losing to host Watsonville on Saturday night, a 4-3 wake-up call that reminded the players and coaches their journey back to the World Series title game was not going to be easy, not to mention a regional title repeat.
But they roared back, winning three elimination games.
And then came the big test: San Gabriel, a team that had no losses going into Tuesday’s matchup in the double-elimination tournament. But Modesto prevailed in the first game, thanks in part to another outstanding pitching performance by Pitman High graduate Nathan Gonzalez. He recorded 11 strikeouts in seven innings, giving up six hits and one walk in a 2-0 win.
Austin Keaton, also a Pitman graduate, went 1-for-3 at the plate with two runs, while Blake Barber was 2-for-2 and Colton Batty finished with two RBIs. Those early scores helped Gonzalez.
“Nathan had them off-balance the whole game and didn’t really give them a chance to get into it,” Swedberg, “We got the first win, which was a big one.”
The second win, however, was a little more difficult to get. After former Turlock Christian High star Eli Davis knocked in Keaton early on, Modesto had a long day and eventually lost 9-1.
But Modesto (33-4) still produced standouts. Gonzalez (16 strikeouts and no runs in 10 innings), Davis (team-leading 11 hits), Batty (nine hits) and Denair High grad Dylan Werner (complete shutout) received all-tournament honors.
“We were disappointed,” Swedberg said about losing in the championship game. “We didn’t get the breaks that we wanted. But that’s baseball. It’s no one’s fault.”
San Gabriel will move on to the Babe Ruth World Series in Washington later this month.
The Modesto coaches are already planning for next season. They will return four players from this season’s roster, in addition to picking up new players to go on another championship quest.
“We have plenty of talent in this area, so there’s no reason why we wouldn’t be back next year,” Swedberg said.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.
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