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Hughson's unheralded hurlers rise to the occasion at Oakdale tourney
Hughson baseball
The Hughson High baseball team pose for a picture after winning the Mark Dickens Invitational in Oakdale on Wednesday (Photo contributed).

OAKDALE — How good is Hughson High’s baseball team? Good enough to win the Mark Dickens Invitational this past week without using top starters Caleb Wilson (the reigning Trans-Valley League Pitcher of the Year), Max Mankins and No. 1 reliever Paul Wagner.

Huskies coach Charly Garza thought his pitching staff faded toward the end of the 2023 season, and he was determined to approach the midpoint of the 2024 campaign differently.

“Max dislocated his finger in our loss to Escalon, so we knew we wouldn’t have him,” said Garza, whose team improved to 14-2 with tourney wins over Central Valley (10-2), Downey (1-0) and Oakdale (7-1). “But we were determined that Wagner and Wilson weren’t going to pitch this tournament. They were only going to play in the field or DH.”

On Monday against CV, Garza leaned on Carlos Guizar, Eric Aranda and Dominic Aguiar, who had a combined five innings pitched between them in 2024.

Against Downey, Garza handed the pearl to sophomore Bryce McDaniel, who’d pitched just two innings all season, and then had Aguiar mop up in that game, too. They performed brilliantly, allowing just three hits in the shutout.

In the championship game against host Oakdale, the eighth-ranked team in the entire section according to, Andrew Fisher saw his first action of the season, having become eligible on April 1 after sitting out the first half of the season due to the section’s transfer rule.

“I was pretty surprised to be starting, but I was confident,” said Fisher, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound junior right-hander. “ I knew I had a great defense behind me and just had to stay relaxed.”

Sophomore call-up Isaac Lupercio made his varsity debut, hurling the final three frames against the Mustangs.

“I was a little nervous at first,” said Lupercio. “But I knew it was going to be really good for me to show Coach what I could do.”

Lupercio and the rest of the staff were aided by their batterymate, junior J.C. Lupercio, Isaac’s older brother.

“Coach sat me down last week and said that we weren’t going to go with our regular guys and that I needed to step up and be a leader in this tournament,” said C.J. Lupercio. “I had to catch all three games, and I really worked hard for these guys. There were times when I could tell they were nervous and I needed to talk to them, or steal a couple of strikes, or just do whatever I could for them. I love directing my guys and being a leader and having control of the whole game in my hands. That’s what I love about being a catcher.”

Junior second baseman Beau Blake, another transfer from Turlock Christian who became eligible Monday, wasted little time showing Garza what he adds to the lineup. Blake was 2-for-4 with two runs scored and four RBIs — three of those coming on a long home over the left-field wall onto J Street.

“My first at-bat I hit a line drive right over the shortstop,” said Blake. “The second at-bat I walked, and the third at-bat I got a fastball middle-up and I just turned on it. It was fun. This whole week was fun.”

A shortstop during his days at TC, Blake has shifted to play second base.

“Blake’s a good shortstop but we’ve got the two-time TVL Defensive Player of the Year Paul Wagner at shortstop,” said Garza. “And we’re not moving him.”

Against Downey, Wagner, Guizar and Blaine Fusi each went 1-for-3, while McDaniel was 3-for-3, and Wilson and Andrade were each 2-for-3 in the tournament finale.

There may be more work this week for the non-regular pitchers. Facing their TVL bye week coming out of spring break, the Huskies have upcoming games against Golden Valley, Merced, Linden and Argonaut, and Garza wants to keep the regulars fresh for when they resume TVL play April 16 against Ripon.

“We purposely did that,” said Garza of the beefed-up non-conference slate. “We changed the schedule to play those teams. We didn’t know kids would be performing this well, but they’ve stepped up and filled roles. They’ve taken on challenge and done better than I could ask for.”