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CV, CHS grads bound for Merced College
Robert Cope and Martin Gomez starred on Ceres High's and Central Valley's varsity baseball teams, respectively, for three seasons.

Cope and Gomez will continue their playing careers at the same school next year. The talented duo's bound for Merced College.

"Being around him (Martin) is fun," said Robert, who bonded with Gomez when they suited up for the East in the 20th Annual Modesto Sunrise Rotary All-Star Game on June 13 at John Thurman Field. "We motivate each other. We talk about baseball and nothing else."

"We talked about it (playing for the Blue Devils) during the last week of the season," Martin said. "That's when I was still debating on Stanislaus, Delta or Merced. It's better having him on my team than facing him. It should be fun."

Cope and Gomez both had productive senior seasons.

Robert won the Valley Oak League Offensive Player of the Year Award. The right-handed slugging designated hitter led the conference in batting average (.514), slugging percentage (.892) and on-base percentage (.647), and ranked second in home runs (four) and RBIs (15).

Gomez, a pitcher/utility infielder, graduated as Central Valley High School's all-time greatest player.

The VOL first-team selection led the conference in strikeouts (72) and complete games (six), and ranked third in wins (four).

He also batted .444 from the plate (16-for-36) with two homers, two doubles, 13 walks, 16 runs and 13 RBIs. Martin had slugging and on-base percentages of .694 and .600, respectively.

Robert has been a fan of Merced College's baseball program since junior high.

Cope actually played at Blue Devil Diamond when he was a member of the Stanislaus Heat travel ball team in the eighth grade.

"I've wanted to go there since I was 14," said Cope, who's attended close to 20 Merced College games over the past four years. "I love the playing surface and back drop. I can see the ball pretty well. They have a lot of four-year college and major-league scouts come out."

Gomez was recruited by Blue Devils assistant coach Jon Boyett.

"It's close to home," Martin said. "They have a really good program. They don't favor players. If you're performing well, you're going to play."

Robert will compete for playing time at catcher.

"It's a battle between three people," Cope said. "Maybe, I'll play a little first base."

Martin will pitch and play third base.

"I'm just going to work hard," Gomez said. "Hopefully, I get a starting or part-time spot. It's going to be tough. There's a lot of good ball players."

Merced College made history this past season by winning a program-record 36 games, capturing its first Central Valley Conference championship since 1986 and participating in the California Regional Playoffs.

The Blue Devils were led by NorCal Coach of the Year Chris Pedretti and 11 all-league players.

Pedretti's resume includes 644 victories, three conference titles and eight playoff berths in 26 seasons. More than 20 of his players have gone on to compete at the professional level, including current Los Angeles Angels reliever Brian Fuentes and Seattle Mariners pitcher Doug Fister.

Chris also helped lead Merced College to back-to-back state championships (1976-77) as a player.

"I'm pretty sure we're going to do really well but I don't want to jinx us," Cope said while talking about the Blue Devils' expectations for 2010.