MODESTO — Before the Central California State Tournament, Bobby Swedberg and his 16-to-18-year-old Modesto Babe Ruth baseball team had reasons to believe that they were going to easily skip past this round of action.
Two years ago, they reached the World Series.
Last year, they were one win away from the World Series.
Then came reality.
It bit them hard, almost dropping them out of a tournament they have dominated for the past three seasons. Modesto — which is coached by Swedberg, the Pitman High junior varsity baseball coach — was close to elimination, but managed to survive twice in the championship round against Hanford on Wednesday at Davis Park to continue their stride toward another World Series appearance.
But first, Modesto will play Northern Utah in the opening round of the Pacific Southwest Regional on Thursday at Watsonville High at 8 p.m., with the tournament winner earning a berth in the World Series.
“They thought they were going to cruise through it,” Swedberg said, “but it didn't work out that way. But, you know, it's made the team stronger.”
Their first two wins — which were also shutouts — seemed almost automatic, with Denair High graduate Dylan Werner pitching effectively for four innings with two hits allowed and six strikeouts in a 20-0 stomping. They then went on to top Ripon 3-0, only needing to beat Hanford to get into the championship round of the double-elimination tournament.
But Hanford managed to pull off a game-winner in its final at-bat to steal a 6-5 win and drop Modesto to the consolation finals. But Modesto didn't let up, and once again beat Ripon with an 11-7 score.
Modesto needed two wins; Hanford just needed one. Swedberg's team won 8-4 in the first game before easily winning the second by a score of 11-0 for a state championship.
“The boys responded really well,” the coach said.
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