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Hall of Fame bound 1990 baseball team won Division II crown
The year was 1990. M.C. Hammer's rap single "U Can't Touch This" ascended Billboard's Hot 100 Chart.

By season's end, Ceres High's varsity baseball team realized its dream of a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section championship. Chris Howard and the Bulldogs won the Division II pennant, the first in school history.

"That was the greatest joy of my adolescent life," said Howard, a senior pitcher at the time.

The Valley Oak League champion Bulldogs totaled a program-record 24 wins and suffered just seven losses. They succeeded because of their coaching, talent and unity.

The 1990 team will be inducted into Ceres High's first-ever Hall of Fame class on Sept. 14 at Phil de la Porte Gymnasium.

"We didn't have any weak spots," said Art McRae, head coach for 37 seasons (1960-1996). "Everybody contributed."

Added Howard: "We had the best team out there."

The Bulldogs were led by all-conference selections Howard, Eddie Quintanar (pitcher), Garrett Middleton (infielder), Ramon Gil (infielder), Alonzo Gradford (outfielder) and Rich Collins (outfielder).

Don Wheeler, Todd Rowell, Cody Vessel, Ron Alves, Matt Sharpe, Vaughn Black, Richard Lara, Raul Rosas, Josh Stewart, Daryn Weese, Cecil Cervantes, Mike Coito, Kevin Rocha and Ryan Black also chipped in.

"We had strong players from top to bottom," Howard said. "We were disciplined. We had the fundamentals down. Overall, we knew our roles. And we always picked each other up."

Ceres High defeated River City Bruins 10-3 for the section crown at Tony Zupo Field.

The Bulldogs totaled eight hits.

Collins batted 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. In three playoff games, Rich collected one triple, four doubles, two singles and six RBIs. He finished the year with a .453 batting average (29-for-64). Collins also led the team in slugging percentage (.656).

Howard doubled and knocked in three runs in two at-bats against River City. He also tossed 11/3 innings of relief.

Quintanar was the starting pitcher. The southpaw surrendered just one hit while shutting out the Bruins for five innings. Eddie allowed three runs in the sixth on three walks, one hit batsman and one single.

Rosas added a two-run single.

Gil singled twice.

Howard's clutch hit put the Bulldogs ahead 10-0 in the fifth inning.

"We were just doing everything right," he said.

Collins and Gradford hoisted coach McRae on their shoulders during the postgame celebration.

"We never thought we'd win everything," Howard said. "It felt great because we were all so close friends. We all hung out together when we weren't playing sports. We always had each other's back. That's what separated us from everybody else."

Ceres High's coaching staff also pushed all the right buttons following a 2-3 start in VOL play.

"We were pretty consistent once we got going," said McRae, who finished his Bulldog coaching career with a 550-427 record.

McRae expected results and his players delivered.

"The practices were tough," Howard said. "We worked hard everyday. He (coach) wouldn't take any excuses but he was always a gentleman about it."

Howard and his former teammates will always remember the year history was made. M.C. Hammer won't let them forget.

"Whenever that song comes on the radio, it totally brings me back to that time," Chris said. "That's what we listened to on bus rides. You don't forget those moments."