Hilmar High’s baseball team entered the first round of the SJS Division V playoff tournament with a chip on its shoulder. The Yellowjackets (14-7 overall), who ended their regular season with a pair of losses to rival Escalon High, stepped onto Billy Hebert Field in Stockton eager to show Linden High they were true contenders. The Lions (22-5 overall), Mother Lode League Champions and number one seed, were outmatched by Hilmar’s pitching and fell 5-1.
“After the Escalon games I thought we were prepared to play anybody,” Hilmar’s head coach Paul Willis said. “I know my team can beat anybody when we show up to play.”
No one was more motivated by the Escalon games than Hilmar’s Matt Tyler. The ‘Jacket ace manned the hill the entire game, held the Lions to one first-inning run, and finished the game with nine strikeouts. Tyler’s success came from his ability to keep the Lions off balance with his variety of pitches; it was a clutch performance when his team needed it most.
“For him to come back like he did, I was very proud of him,” Willis said.
As Tyler used his arm to dishearten Linden, a group of Hilmar batters worked hard to do the same from the plate. After a first inning run, Hilmar scored a run in the third and fourth innings before a two-run fifth inning sealed the Lions’ fate. Breck Smith led the ‘Jackets with 2 RBIs and was joined by Anthony Diaz, Garrett Jericoff, and Kyle Silva who each had an RBI to their name.
Although many considered Wednesday’s game to be an upset, Hilmar doesn’t see it that way. The ‘Jackets expected to beat the Lions and they expect much more. If all goes as planned, Hilmar’s baseball team expects to be in the finals where they hope to face Escalon for a chance at revenge.
“These boys are ready to play Escalon in the section title game,” Willis said. “We have a few kids from the football team and they are pumping up the rest of the squad for a similar matchup.”
Before a Hilmar-Escalon matchup can take place the ‘Jackets must first defeat Dixon High in a three game series. Although Dixon is an unfamiliar team for Hilmar, its strategy is the same as it always is —swing the bat and score runs.
“We just got to keep hitting the ball and do what we got to do,” Willis said. “We taught our guys to be aggressive so I expect a battle. It’s not going to be a blow out either way.”