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Hilmar baseball clinches playoff spot with sweep of MC
hilmar baseball 2
Hilmar's Alex Chavez (left) and Zach Berberia (right) get excited after Chavez scored a run in Thursday's 10-0 win over Modesto Christian. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

Hilmar baseball clinched a playoff berth on Thursday after topping Modesto Christian in a 10-0 mercy-rule win on senior night.

“I'm excited for the program and kids and everybody in Hilmar. It's not just about one person or one player it's about the kids, and the community,” said Hilmar head coach Bobby Swedberg. “They get so much support and we saw some great things that helped us change as the year went on.”

Some of those things were more disciplined at-bats, not to mention a rough summer and preseason schedule that saw the Yellowjackets facing some of the stiffest Division I competition in the area.

The approach for the 'Jackets has been a more diverse and intellectual perspective through every pitch and at-bat, something that Swedberg has been building on since arriving in Hilmar just over a year ago.

“We had a difficult preseason for the same reason... to give us a different look at competition and play some good teams,” said Swedberg. “We wanted to play schools that are bigger than us, but all of them, they gave us a tough time but gave the kids an understanding to compete no matter who we're playing.”

Hilmar started off the year at 5-7 and at one point had lost six in a row, leading to a 2-7 start.

“These kids worked hard in the summer and competing with schools like Turlock, Merced, Los Banos and Buhach will make you better,” said Swedberg. “These kids kept pulling away and it definitely showed going into our league.”

Hilmar started off the Trans-Valley League play with a 5-1 record and are now 7-3, after winning in back-to-back games against Modesto Christian.

But the pivotal turning point, said Swedberg, is when the 'Jackets somehow topped Hughson and their ace pitcher Grant Williams.

Although the 'Jackets split the series, the win against a pitcher of Williams' caliber helped secure a sense of confidence that the team lacked in prior games.

In Thursday's senior night game, Hilmar began to hit on all cylinders, hitting, pitching and walking.

They walked six times and starting pitcher Zach Berberia pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just a pair of hits while walking one and striking out six. Berberia also finished off even stronger, retiring 8 of the final 9 batters faced.

It didn't hurt that they scored early and often.

Two runs were scored in the first by seniors Alex Chavez and Jarrod Willis.

The Yellowjackets followed it with a four-run inning in the second which was led off by Wyatt Amaral's walk and a few at-bats later, Preston Costa drilled a two-run single up the middle to make it 5-0.

By the end of the third inning, Hilmar had racked up 10 runs and by then most of the bench was already out on the field getting some innings under their belt.

Jarrod Willis was 1 for 2 with an RBI. Preston Costa was 1 for 3 with two RBI and a run scored and Alex Chavez finished 1 for 2 with two runs scored.

Hilmar's next game will be their final non-league game against Big Valley Christian at 6:30 p.m. today.