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Hawks nearly pull off major upset versus Central Catholic
Central Valley High School's varsity baseball team put itself in position for a major upset.

The Hawks loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning but failed to score against first-place Central Catholic.

The Raiders escaped with a 2-1 victory last Wednesday in Ceres.

"It's too late in the season for moral victories," Hawks head coach Greg Magni said. "Year after year, we put ourselves in striking distance. I really thought we were going to take that next step. That's what makes this so heartbreaking. It's one of the toughest losses I've ever experienced."

Central Valley squandered a chance to move into a three-way tie for the WAC's third and final postseason berth with two games to play. The Hawks dropped to 4-6 in league play. Patterson and Los Banos have identical 5-5 records.

"We knew what was at stake," Magni said. "This would have given us every tiebreaker."

The Hawks wasted a strong pitching effort from junior Ruben Casas, who yielded two runs (one earned) and five hits with seven strikeouts, five walks and one hit batsman.

"He deserved a better fate than that," Magni said. "He was excellent today. He did a nice job mixing speeds. He kept us in the game."

Said Casas: "I was pretty confident coming in. I felt good on the mound."

John Mundt picked up the win in relief of Raiders starting pitcher Chandler Bengston. Mundt allowed one run and five hits with two strikeouts in five innings.

Bengston gave up one hit, fanned three and walked three in two innings.

Central Catholic broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the seventh inning. Chris Sauls battled back from an 0-2 count and laced a two-out single to left field. Casas' third pitch, a curveball, just missed the strike zone. Two pitches later, Sauls delivered and pinch runner Matt Palazzo scored.

"I left it high for him," Casas said. "I shouldn't have done that."

Alex Lomeli, Central Valley's leadoff hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning, reached base when his grounder got past Central Catholic's second baseman and rolled into right field. Casas flied out to center. Fabian Valencia grounded into a game-inning double play.

Mundt worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Hawks had back-to-back force outs at home and a fly out to center field.

Central Valley tied the game in the fifth inning. Lomeli singled and Godinez scored from second base.

The Hawks and Raiders both struggled on offense.

Central Valley and Central Catholic posted batting averages of .200 (5-for-25) and .238 (5-for-21), respectively, to go along with 12 strikeouts.

Lomeli, Valencia, Cody Chesney, Juan Plasencia and Michael Ereso all singled for Central Valley.

Sauls batted 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.

Devon Kelley singled and scored once.

Brevin Van Diepen tallied one run.

Jason Rivera and Kevin Bettencourt both singled.

The Hawks and Raiders made a combined five errors on defense. Central Valley had two.

The Hawks stranded eight runners on base.

"We should have won the game," Magni said. "We had plenty of opportunities. We couldn't get that clutch hit when we needed it."

"It's very frustrating," Casas added. "We wanted to win so bad. We just couldn't perform under pressure."

Central Valley nearly notched its biggest win in program history.

The Hawks knocked off Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV-champion Oakdale 7-4 in Valley Oak League play during the 2010 season.

"This one meant way more," Magni said. "It was for playoff positioning."