The year is not over for Hilmar baseball.
It didn't matter if the final game resulted in a 5-2 loss to Escalon for the Yellowjackets, because the team is still in the playoffs and still hungry.
“Nobody ever relaxes and at this point, we have had a lot of tough games that have built character within the team,” said Hilmar coach Bobby Swedberg. “Escalon's pitcher did well against us, but now it is just one game at a time.”
That pitcher was senior Jackson Bennett who pitched seven innings, allowed just two runs on five hits, walked five and struck out 10.
The win secured Escalon the second position in the Trans-Valley League with a record of 9-3. Hilmar finished just behind at 8-4.
The victory also proved to be more significant than many expected as Hilmar was bumped to the No. 9 seed in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division V tournament.
Escalon was pushed up to the No. 5 seed in the bracket.
“Our kids were very upbeat, we could have played for second place and they battled but they didn't hang their heads,” said Swedberg. “We now have a tough road ahead of us, but we have gotten mentally tougher as the year has progressed.”
Hilmar only had five hits as opposed to 12 hits from Escalon during their season finale on Wednesday. The Yellowjackets also committed three errors to Escalon's one.
It was Hilmar that went up early and quickly after Alex Chavez led off with a double.
Jarrod Willis then followed the at-bat and smacked an RBI single to make it 1-0 with one out but Bennett battled out with just a run allowed.
Escalon responded with two runs in the bottom half of the first and from there on Hilmar was playing catch-up.
They never led again for the remainder of the game as Escalon went up 5-1 heading into seventh and final inning.
“They responded with a couple base hits,” said Swedberg. “Their pitcher did a good job keeping us off like we did on Tuesday. We had tough at bats and worked hard, but didn't have many opportunities to get runs back, he kept us off throwing pitches to get ground balls, tip your hat to him.”
Hilmar got their second run in the top of the seventh after Willis had a base on balls RBI to drive in the second run but that proved to be the only offense provided for the game.
Zach Berberia started for Hilmar and tossed five innings, giving up five runs on seven hits.
Willis was 1 for 2 with two RBI. Chavez was 1 for 3 with a double and run scored.
Hilmar's next game will be a first round postseason contest in the Division V bracket against West Campus on the road at 4 p.m. Monday.
“Pitching has been good and defense as well has helped us all year, I don't think it bothers us to travel but we were underdogs before the year started and not many people expected us to be here,” said Swedberg. “And we like going on the road. We like putting on a good game and we will see what happens.”