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One final CCC season
Turlock baseball eyeing title; Pitman has a new head coach
Pitman senior Brett Hagen throws the ball to first base during practice drills on Monday. Hagen is one of three returning players for the Pride. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Journal

As the 2018 prep season readies to begin with spring sports, the days are winding down for the long-time affiliation with the Central California Conference for Pitman and Turlock High.

Next year, both will be entering the newly developed Central California Athletic League along with four other Modesto area schools, but before doing so, both are eager to compete for one final CCC title and hoping to leave as winners.

Just like last year’s results, a split of the CCC title won’t be a bad turnout, especially since both dominated their league opponents.

Turlock and Pitman each finished with a league record of 10-2, earning a berth in the Division-I Sac-Joaquin Section tournament.

“These guys are hungry to have a good year,” said Turlock head coach Mark de la Motte. “Last year was real tough the way we went out of the playoffs, but we will fight back and they talked about it in the offseason, we just have to come out and play hard, play well.”

Pitman welcomes in first year head varsity coach in Andy Walker and he seems to bring in the same calm demeanor and confidence that John Acha brought to the team.

“I’ve been around baseball for a long time, and coached freshman and varsity assistant,” said Walker. “I think John and I have similarities and playing and representing our school in a great way, but we are both big on that and I think our guys have been receptive as well, so far they responded well. We know they are capable of playing and can do great things so we are excited about the guys we have.”

Pitman graduated a herd of their playmakers but returns Brett Hagen, Mac Cabero and Tyler Stout, all of which were standouts just a season ago and some of the top contributors on the squad in the final year for Acha, now vice principal at Pitman High.

In order to continue their winning ways, Walker will have to rely on his three veterans, most notably the arms of Stout and Hagen, which have proven to be difficult to hit against.

“I think we have a good shot with everything. Baseball comes down to pitching and timely hitting and I think we have great arms, quality arms we can put out there every day,” said Walker. “Long as we can put up some runs we should be alright, but we can see where it all goes.”

Turlock is looking like they’ll have one of the deepest rosters they have ever had, at least on paper.

Seven are seniors for Turlock, however, approximately six of the predicted starters for majority of the season are juniors or younger.

With the mass amounts of returners, including their entire infield, this squad doesn’t look to have many holes or weaknesses.

In fact, this roster is yielding some of the top prospects in the area and without question multiple all-league selections.

Some of those standouts include Justin Hines, Kayleb Becerra, Dallin Tilby, Casey Carr, Mason King, Case Pacheco, Tyler Etharidge, Tyler Soderstrom, Justin Hill, Garret Fountain and sophomore 6-foot-1 pitcher Justin Hill, who is already a top prospect in the area.

Turlock also welcomes one of last year’s standouts for the Pitman Pride in Cole Carrigg.

A total of 14 players return for the Bulldogs who were in last year’s roster.

“I am excited. We have a lot of returners,” said de la Motte. “Some good kids were moved up from the JV team, and also have some basketball players and wrestlers out here now and to get in game shape, but league doesn’t start till the second week of April this year. So, everybody will be at their best by then, not like we start in a week or two, we have time to develop. We have a pretty good nucleus.”

As of Wednesday, Turlock’s record sits at 3-0, while Pitman is 1-0.

Both Pitman and Turlock will next be competing in the Pedretti Tournament along with three future league opponents in Gregori, Modesto and Enochs.

Turlock will open up against Oakdale at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Pitman will square off with Enochs at home at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.