Every time Turlock High's Ryan Cumberland approaches home plate with a bat in hand, his mind tends to wander — but with good reason.
He's looking at who's on base, while trying to figure out how to send them in.
Cumberland is the Bulldogs' cleanup hitter, who, Coach Mark de la Motte once joked, is “leading the world in RBIs.” In reality, he batted 39 runners in prior to Friday's season finale against Atwater High, which is the most out of Central California Conference players. It's also important to note that he's only a sophomore, one that has fitted in quite well for the Bulldogs.
“All my teammates are getting on,” Cumberland said, “making my job a lot easier to get them in.”
Because of his clutch ways, he has helped the Bulldogs get rid of an annoying truth that has bugged the program before all of the current players began putting on a Turlock High uniform. Since 2003, they never made the postseason … until now.
Turlock has held the No. 1 seed in the CCC for a week now, as the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament begins at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Klein Family Field at UOP in Stockton. The Bulldogs are awaiting their opponent, which will be the No. 2 team in the San Joaquin Athletic Association.
Cumberland, who plays a number of field positions, is glad to be a part of the mix.
He bats fourth, behind leadoff hitter Kevin Kramer, Ryan Flood and Vince Wheeland, with Kramer and Wheeland both college-bound. Arguably, one of the most drastic changes de la Motte implemented was moving up Kramer to the top position in the lineup a few games ago after holding down the third spot for most of the season.
The Turlock coach did it to shake things up, considering teams pitched around Kramer all season because of his hitting abilities (one that helped land a spot on a USA Baseball Team last summer). The change has helped Kramer and the Bulldogs.
“When Kevin gets on second,” Cumberland said, “he's fast enough to get home on a single.”
Flood and Wheeland have also been productive, and Wheeland is confident that his sophomore teammate can usually get him across home plate.
“He doesn't think when he's at the plate,” Wheeland said “He's up there trying to hit the ball, he's not thinking about all the mechanical stuff. He's just up there swinging the bat. When he gets a pitch he wants to hit, he's gonna do what he can with it.”
A lot of good things happen when Cumberland is at the plate, evident by his numbers: In 70 at-bats prior to Friday, he had 35 hits, 39 RBIs, 10 doubles and one home run, all while falling victim to a half-dozen strikeouts.
And all along, de la Motte figured that his cleanup batter would get those stats.
“He's got great concentration at the plate,” he said of Cumberland. “The thing he does best is, he makes adjustments within one or two pitches. Usually, within one pitch. So he knows what he's done and what he needs to change in the next swing — a mark of a good hitter.”
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