The goal is simple: Win state.
It’s a small wish for the Modesto Babe Ruth 16-18-year-old baseball team that ended last season in the most unexpected way. The players and coaches had one heck of a run — ending in the World Series title game in Newark, Ohio. Their dream season concluded with a crushing loss.
Modesto, which boasted a number of athletes from the Turlock area at the high school and college levels, suffered a 6-4 heartbreak.
But all that didn’t happen until after Modesto captured the state title.
And now, Modesto wants more. But the players are in no rush. They begin their journey back to the World Series by hosting the Central California State Tournament at Davis Park, next to Davis High in Modesto, starting Saturday, as the champion will be determined Wednesday in the eight-team, five-day event.
Modesto’s first game is against Bullard of Fresno at 7 p.m.
And, once again, Modesto is doing it with Turlock area athletes.
“Last year put things into perspective,” said Eli Davis, a newcomer to the team who played at Turlock Christian High before reaching Modesto Junior College. “We know we have some really big shoes to fill.”
Modesto coach Bobby Swedberg, also an assistant at Pitman High, believes his team can repeat last season’s dream run, saying that he has picked up some of the best players from Modesto to Atwater to increase depth.
He also said the local players are crucial to the team’s aspiration to go very far. Joining center fielder Davis are former Pitman players Ian Fregosi (right fielder), Nathan Gonzalez (pitcher) and Austin Keaton (shortstop), as well as recent Denair High graduates Ernie Delgadillo (catcher) and Dylan Werner (pitcher).
Fregosi, Keaton, Delgadillo and Werner are all returners.
“The chemistry is coming along,” Swedberg said. “We look forward to getting things going.”
According to the players, last season’s run was unexpected. No one thought a World Series title game appearance was possible, they said. But good pitching helped them go deep into the postseason that included the Pacific Southwest Regional crown. Bradin Hagens, the former Pitman star who is now a professional baseball player, was one of the two top aces.
Entering this weekend’s tournament Modesto owns a 22-2 record. The squad has been earning success with solid pitching and effective hitting, as it boasts eight players from last season’s team that lost in the World Series title game to an all-stars squad from Portland, Ore.
The Modesto players know it’s going to be tough to copy what happened last season, but they can see themselves playing in the World Series game in Moses Lake, Wash., from Aug. 15-22. And winning it.
But first they want to win state.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.