Twin brothers Brad and Brent Bussard planned to attend Washington State and Central Washington, respectively, this fall.
That’s before the 2015 Ceres High graduates caught the attention of a coach from Holy Names University this past spring during their final season with the Bulldogs’ varsity baseball program.
Brad batted 2-for-4 from the plate with a homer, single, one RBI and one run during Ceres High’s 11-6 loss at Cosumnes Oaks on March 9 in Elk Grove. Brent doubled off the right-center field fence and scored one run.
“They both had a great game that day,” said John Bussard, the father of Brad and Brent and Ceres High’s head coach.
Brad and Brent both earned partial scholarships to the NCAA Division-II college.
Located in Oakland, Holy Names has a cost of attendance of $46,000 per year.
“It’s tremendous validation,” John said. “There are not too many kids from our league that are walking out of here with scholarships. It’s something I didn’t have anything to do with. The next level recognized what they could do. They produced at the right time and got snagged up.”
Brad and Brent filled key roles while leading Ceres High’s varsity baseball program to an 84-31-1 overall record, four Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths and two Western Athletic Conference titles from 2012-15.
The Bulldogs captured their second straight WAC crown (11-1) during the springtime.
Ceres High had a 23-7 overall record and advanced to the semifinal round of the Division-IV playoffs.
Brad, a standout hitter, shortstop and pitcher, was voted WAC MVP.
He batted .450 with three triples, four doubles, 19 RBIs, 15 runs and 10 stolen bases.
Brad had a perfect 5-0 record with a 1.18 ERA, three complete games and 34 strikeouts while pitching.
Brent had a breakout season with the Bulldogs his junior year. He earned second-team all-league honors. He missed first-team accolades by just one vote.
Brent batted .406 with one triple, two doubles, nine RBIs, 13 runs, one stolen base and a 1.000 fielding percentage.
He hit .222 with one double, six RBIs and eight RBIs in 2015.
“When we’re on the field, it’s coach-player,” John said. “Sometimes it doesn’t end when you go home. It hasn’t been easy, especially on them. I expect more out of them than anybody else. Our relationship is better because of it. I can’t be more proud of them. I have two very good, respectful kids.”
The Bussards visited Holy Names in May. Brad and Brent were recruited to play in the infield and outfield, respectively.
The Hawks’ baseball program collected a program-best 22 wins with 28 losses this past season. Holy Names finished fifth in the PacWest Conference standings (12-20).
“It’s a small campus,” Brad said. “But it’s got a million dollar view of the entire Bay. They’re going to give us a shot to play as freshmen. We have to earn it.”
“Obviously, we’re happy,” Brent said. “It’s a lot closer to home. They offered a good amount of money. Our parents and grandma can come watch all of our games. Having all that support from our family, you can’t replace. It’s incredible.”
Parents John and Susan, and grandmother Gertie Lopes of Crows Landing will not have to travel out of state to watch Brad and Brent play.
John, Susan and Gertie were prepared to make the 151/2-hour drive to Washington.
The drive from Ceres to Oakland will take 90 minutes. “A long time ago, they announced they wanted to go separate ways,” John said. “All of a sudden this came about. They’re going to go to school together, live together and play together. It will make mine and my wife’s lives a lot easier. It puts them closer to home. We’ll still get an opportunity to see them play in college.”
“They’ll come to all of our games with our grandma,” Brad said. “She’s happy with our decision. She stayed with us during game days in high school. She didn’t miss too many games.”
“She means the world to us,” Brent said.
Bound for Washington, Brad and Brent both had a change of heart after being recruited by Holy Names. The unexpected encounter that took place with a Hawks coach during a road game this past spring at Cosumnes Oaks ultimately altered their futures.
“We couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Brad said. “They gave both of us scholarships. We worked our whole lives for this.”