It’s still early into the baseball season, but the Hilmar varsity squad seems to have finally picked up some momentum and gotten into their groove after beating an undefeated Franklin of Stockton team on Wednesday night in a convincing 9-4 victory.
“Sometimes in this game you learn from losing,” said Hilmar head coach Bobby Swedberg. “You don’t want to make that a habit, but sometimes it’s good to get a wakeup call. We knew last Wednesday wasn’t Hilmar baseball by any means.”
On Wednesday, the Yellowjackets lost to Livingston 8-1 on the road. Since then, the Hilmar team has notched nothing but wins.
“We weren’t executing, we weren’t putting balls in play and we weren’t playing defense so we had to go out and fix it,” said Swedberg.
In that span, Hilmar has outscored their last three opponents 19-7.
“We went to work last Thursday, had a team meeting and guys stepped up,” said Swedberg. “Things were said that needed to be said and from that point forward, it’s still early, but they are getting a sense of what is expected from this program and how to execute. We are getting two-out base hits whereas we didn’t get them before.”
Hilmar is now 5-4 in preseason play and will host Le Grand on Friday before beginning league play next week.
They picked up their fifth win after toppling previously unbeaten Franklin of Stockton, which came in at 5-0 prior to Wednesday’s game.
Hilmar left no doubt of its ability after scoring five runs in the first inning.
In that inning, Hilmar hit three doubles with two outs and batted around the lineup.
“We were able to hit around in the first inning with two outs and it forced them to make the plays because this game is not routine and you have to work at it,” said Swedberg. “Putting pressure on their guys and getting a big 5-1 lead gave us a cushion.”
After leading 5-1 heading into the third, Franklin added two runs in the top of the third and cut the lead to 5-4 after the fourth inning had concluded.
“Tip your hat to these guys,” said Swedberg. “They are a scrappy team and battled back.”
Hilmar had three quick outs in the bottom of the fourth before they went off in the fifth.
Chris Flores opened up the fifth with a lead-off single and Preston Costa then got on and after getting one out, Wyatt Amaral was walked and loaded the bases with one down.
Devin Pillow laid down an RBI sacrifice to score Flores and take a 6-4 lead.
Freshman and twin Trent Crowley followed with a two-run single to extend the lead to 8-4, and finally Crowley scored after Zach Berberia was able to get on base safely.
Berberia started and tossed six innings, allowed two earned runs and struck out 11 after picking up the win. Bryce Durjava came in in the seventh and pitched a scoreless inning to end the game.
“Zach always wants one more. If it’s five innings, he wants six or if it’s six he wants seven, but certainly during the year you have to be smart with their arms. Zach is getting into a groove from basketball, he has had three solid outings and as long as he continues, the defense behind him is clicking and that is great for us.”
Costa had a pair of hits and two RBI. Amaral had a hit and an RBI. Tristan Crowley had an RBI triple in the first, and as a team Hilmar finished the game with five stolen bases.
“Confidence begins with performing and executing, when you get things going and everybody is contributing, that is what keeps everyone engaged and good things happen,” said Swedberg.