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Hughson blanks Ben Holt to advance to D-5 semifinal series
TC advances to round two; Turlock bounced in quarterfinals
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Hughson’s Carlos Guizar drives a two-run double to deep right field in the third inning of the Huskies’ 10-0 win over Ben Holt College Prep Academy (Stockton) in the quarterfinal round of the 2024 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 playoffs on Thursday (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Another game, another double-digit victory for the Hughson High Huskies. Their latest victim? The Bobcats of Ben Holt College Prep Academy (Stockton) in the first round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 playoffs. 

The #2 seeded Huskies blanked the #7 Bobcats by a 10-0 score in six innings on Wednesday. The Trans-Valley League champions, who went 25-2 in the regular season and 11-1 in conference play, advance to the semifinal where they will begin a three-game series against #3 Sutter High on Monday in a rematch of a year ago in which Hughson was eliminated in two games.

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Starting pitcher Caleb Wilson tossed four shutout, no-hit innings for Hughson on Thursday (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

In last year’s semifinal, Sutter won 4-1 in the first game before clinching the series with a 5-3 win. The memories of being eliminated by Sutter, who are also the Huskies, still linger among the many returners within the Hughson dugout. They are each adamant that they are better this year, and that next week’s series will bring better results.

“This year, we're much deeper as a pitching staff and our lineup, I think, is one of the best lineups around,” said Hughson head coach Charly Garza. “Sutter, they’re a very well coached team with a lot of championship pedigree… They have a lot of section banners. They have a winning culture. It should be a great series. But our guys are confident. They've been waiting for this all year. They've been wanting it. It’s been showing in the way they’ve played all year, especially of late.”

One of the Huskies’ hottest hitters of late is junior Carlos Guizar, who went 4-for-4 at the plate with 4 RBI in Wednesday’s blowout win. The first baseman has 31 hits on the year and is second on the team with a .383 batting average. 

Guizar gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead in the first inning with an RBI double. He struck again in the third with a two-run single to extend the team’s lead to 4-0. After doubling in the fifth inning, he added another RBI single in the sixth inning to make it a 9-0 game.

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With teammate Blaine Fusi at the plate, Hughson’s Beau Blake scores the Huskies’ 10th run of the game on a passed ball in the sixth inning to end their quarterfinal matchup with Ben Holt by mercy rule (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“He's probably had the most consistent at-bats, hitting the ball hard, hitting it to all fields. He's just dialed in right now. He's focused. His BP sessions are focused. I'm not surprised by his performance at all,” Garza said.

The Huskies totaled 10 hits on the day. Also producing runs throughout the day was junior second baseman Beau Blake. Prior to Guizar’s two-run single in the third, Blake padded the Hughson lead with an RBI single of his own.  He scored later in the inning on a balk. In the sixth inning, Blake put the finishing touches on the day by speeding home on a passed ball for the tenth run of the game to force a mercy-rule ending.

“I've never been on a team that's this dominant,” Guizar said of his team that has won 12 games by mercy-rule this season. “This is all new to me. In my past years, like my sophomore year last year, we had a really good squad, but it doesn’t compare. With this squad, we're all set everywhere. We’re very well-rounded, whether it be the offense, defense, pitching. It’s all here.”

With four games in between the quarterfinal game and next week’s semifinal series, Garza dispatched his two top starting pitchers, senior Caleb Wilson and junior Max Mankins, to get a feel of how they were feeling at this point in the season. Last year, he felt as if the staff was worn out by the time the postseason rolled around. The outings by Wilson and Mankins on Wednesday reassured Garza that there is still plenty of gas left in their tanks.

Wilson received the starting nod, striking out seven while not allowing a hit and only walking two in his four scoreless innings of work. Most importantly, in the eyes of Garza, his velocity remained in the high 80s and low 90s.

“What we wanted to see out of Caleb was the velocity, to make sure it was up,” Garza explained. “In other years, we'd use him too much (in the regular season). And when we’d get to this round, the velocity was kind of down. He was up today. All his pitches were working. We saw what we needed to see.”

Still, the right-hander who features a fastball, changeup and slider believes he has a lot more to offer.

“I definitely didn't have my best stuff,” Wilson said. “My slider was good, changeup felt good today, and fastball, I didn't have my best control of it. But I’m feeling good. Throwing 50 pitches today with the four days (off) is a lot easier than 100… We’ll be ready. We know that that team we're playing next is good. We still gotta lock in.”

Mankins entered the game to start the fifth inning, striking out four and keeping the Bobcats scoreless despite surrendering three hits in his first inning of relief.

The first game of the best-of-three semifinal series against Sutter is slated to get underway at 4 p.m. Monday at the Hughson High ballfield.


Turlock Christian handles business against Golden Sierra


For the first time since 2021, the Eagles of Turlock Christian did not end the regular season with a league championship. They went 13-5 overall and 7-3 in Central California Athletic Alliance League play, good enough for second place behind 10-0 Venture Academy (Stockton).

No league title, no problem.

On Wednesday, the Eagles soared to a 5-0 victory over the Golden Sierra Grizzlies (Garden Valley) in the first round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 7 playoffs.

On the bump for TC was sophomore Blake Starn, who held the Grizzlies to four hits and two walks over his seven shutout innings. He also struck out four batters in the process.

Offensively, senior Will Kelley was an on-base machine, stringing together three hits. His third inning single helped score the first run, as sophomore Jakobe Garcia advanced to third on the play before a throwing error allowed him to score. Another run came across in the inning via a walk with the bases loaded. Things never got easier for the Golden Sierra pitching, who again struggled with command mightily in the fifth frame, allowing two more runners to score on a walk and a hit-by-pitch in consecutive at-bats with the bases loaded. 

In the best-of-three semifinal series that starts Monday at 4:30 p.m., the Eagles will travel to Woodland to face the top-seed Woodland Christian Cardinals, who went 19-4 in the regular season and won the Central Valley California League with a 6-0 record.



Bulldogs bounced by defending D-1 champion Franklin


After extending their winning streak to nine games on Tuesday with a 4-2 win over McClatchy (Sacramento) in the first round of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs, the Turlock High varsity baseball team saw their streak — and season — end Thursday after running into the buzzsaw that is pitcher Nic Abraham of the defending section champion Franklin High (Elk Grove).

Abraham, a right-hander committed to play collegiately for the University of Tennessee, quieted the Bulldog bats in his complete game performance, giving up just one earned run on four hits while punching out 10 to help the Wildcats win by a 6-1 score.

The Wildcats, the No. 2 seed in the D-1 bracket after achieving a 22-5 regular season record and 16-2 record in the Delta League, took command immediately against Turlock starter Mason Baker, tagging the senior for three runs on three hits and a walk in the first inning. The Wildcats extended their lead to 4-0 after getting another run across in the fourth inning.

The Bulldogs’ lone run of the afternoon came courtesy of Andrew “Bubba” Lujan scoring from third base on a Carter Crivelli fielder’s choice in the fifth inning to cut the lead to 4-1. With Lujan on the mound in the sixth inning, Franklin scored their last two runs of the contest thanks to a pair of Turlock errors.

Thursday’s game was Turlock’s first appearance in the quarterfinal round of the section playoffs since 2019. They were handed the No. 7 seed in the bracket after going 20-8 overall in the regular season, including a 13-2 record in Central California Athletic League competition to clinch their first conference title since 2022.