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Local players shine in Babe Ruth state championship
After the Modesto Babe Ruth 16-18-year-old baseball team won back-to-back Central California State Championships on Wednesday, three Pitman High graduates were honored for their play: Nathan Gonzalez, left, as the tournament’s MVP, and Austin Keaton and Ian Fregosi were selected to the all-tournament team. - photo by Photo Contributed
MODESTO — One by one, the batters went down, humbly and stoically back to their dugout. They knew it was going to be a difficult day, and not because the state championship was at stake.
Nathan Gonzalez of the Modesto Babe Ruth 16-18-year-old baseball team wasn’t going to make it easy on his challengers during the Central California State Tournament title game at Davis Park on Wednesday afternoon, especially with a devastating fastball. The former Pitman High pitcher made it look almost effortless in a 16-0 win over Hanford in a shortened five-inning game.
“The whole game I felt confident,” Gonzalez said.
Modesto, which boasts a half-dozen players from Turlock and Denair, hopes its ace can carry this attitude starting Thursday against Nevada in Watsonville in defending the Pacific Southwest Regional crown. And, of course, the players and coaches hope to extend their hot streak all the way to the World Series title game like they did last season, though this time they hope to take it all.
But they’re not looking that far ahead.
That was the approach they had throughout the week, despite Modesto being favored to capture back-to-back state tournament titles. It started with a productive hit, and it came from former Turlock Christian star Eli Davis, who found a spot in left field that sent in teammate Colton Batty from third base.
And once again, just like what happened in the semifinal game against cross-town rival the Modesto Astros two days earlier, a big hit started an avalanche of runs, doubles and RBIs, as well as a three-run shot from Adrian Hunter in the fifth inning that was more than enough in a game that was decided early on.
“When we get rolling, it can get a little scary,” said Modesto coach Bobby Swedberg, also an assistant at Pitman High. “The players really feed off each other.”
They exploded for nine runs on six hits and two errors in the third inning before going scoreless in the fourth. Modesto had another surge in the fifth, when the players had six runs on seven hits and two errors.
And the local players made nice contributions.
Davis went 2-for-3 with four RBIs, and Pitman High graduates Austin Keaton got on two out of three at-bats to score twice and add an RBI and Ian Fregosi scored a run. Recent Denair High graduates Dylan Werner and Ernie Delgadillo also saw playing time, with Werner scoring a run and Delgadillo producing an RBI.
But out of all the local players, Gonzalez perhaps had the best week. He not only finished Wednesday with nine strikeouts in facing 17 batters in five innings and allowed only two hits but also earned the tournament’s MVP honor.
Gonzalez, who played at St. Mary’s College last season, said he built a lot of confidence knowing that his offense was producing a galore of hits and runs.
“The team is well-rounded,” he said. “Once we get things going, once we catch fire, it’s hard to stop us. One through nine, everyone is a force. As long as we’re playing like we should, it’s hard to stop us.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.