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Baseball rivals enjoy teaming up at all-star event
Recent Ceres High grad Ricky Lopez logged playing time at shortstop and second base at the Modesto Sunrise Rotary All-Star Baseball Classic on Saturday at Stanislaus State. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Courier

Ricky Lopez joked with Gabriel Quezada in the dugout at the 28th annual Modesto Sunrise Rotary All-Star Baseball Classic this past weekend in Turlock.

Rivals for the past three seasons, the 2017 graduates Lopez (Ceres High) and Quezada (Central Valley) enjoyed teaming up for the first time as the Gold team lost 14-2 to the Blue team on Saturday evening at Stanislaus State.

"We put the rivalry aside and joked around with each other," Lopez said. "It's not like we hate each other because he goes to Central Valley and I go to Ceres High."

"When you're on the same team, all that stuff gets put behind you," Quezada said while talking about crosstown competition. "To be honest, it was a fun day. We've grown up playing each other. It brought back memories from the past."

Lopez logged playing time at shortstop and second base.

He batted 0-for-4 on offense.
"It was an honor to play against top competition," Lopez said. "There was a lot of talent. We lost but we all had fun out there."

Quezada logged playing time at first base in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

He batted 0-for-1 with two walks.

"Seeing all the talent from the area was the most enjoyable part about playing in the game," Gabriel said. "The other team was stacked. Even though we lost, I still had fun."

Blane Abeyta (Ceres High) also suited up for the Gold team.

Abeyta played catcher the first four innings.

He logged playing time at third base in the ninth inning.

Blane batted 0-for-3 with two flyouts and one strikeout.

"I enjoyed meeting new guys and being able to play with my friends one last time," Abeyta said. "It was a great experience."

Abeyta and Lopez teamed up for the final time.

Blane and Lopez played two seasons of baseball together at Ceres High.

They also competed together at the youth level.

"It was an honor to play with Ricky one last time," Abeyta said. "We've been playing together for the longest time. We definitely matured a lot over the years. We pushed each other to work harder and get better."

"There's really no sadness," Lopez said. "We had a blast."

Abeyta threw out a Blue baserunner on a steal attempt at second base during the all-star game.

Lopez applied the tag.

"We have a connection from all the years we've played together," Ricky said.

"It brought memories back," Blane said.

Lopez and Abeyta both filled key roles while leading Ceres High to a 23-7 overall record and second-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference standings (12-3).

The Bulldogs also returned to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs following a disappointing 2016 campaign.

"It was really awesome to be able to do that," Abeyta said.

"We bounced back from junior year," Lopez said. "We both stepped up."

Ricky was named Most Valuable Player of the WAC.

He batted .462 from the plate with two triples, 12 doubles, 30 RBIs, 24 runs and 10 stolen bases in 30 games.

Blane was selected to the WAC First Team.

He batted .354 with four homers, 10 doubles, 38 RBIs, 32 runs and 10 stolen bases.

Gabriel started at first base for last-place Central Valley (5-21-1, 1-14).

He collected two homers, one triple, two doubles, five RBIs and two stolen bases.

Lopez and Abeyta will continue their baseball careers at Merced College and Modesto Junior College, respectively.

"I'm going to compete for a starting position," Abeyta said. "I'm definitely going to have to worker than I have ever worked before. I sure do hope to see Ricky down the road."

"I visited and met the coach," Lopez said. "He told me what had to be done. I'm going to get an opportunity to compete for a starting spot in the middle infield. I'm looking forward to progressing and going as far as I can."

Quezada earned a football scholarship to Humboldt State.

Gabriel was voted 2016 WAC Outstanding Defensive Lineman this past fall for Central Valley, which posted a program-best 9-2 overall record, claimed its first conference title and participated in the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Quezada had 44 tackles, 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

"Knowing it was my final time playing baseball, it was a bittersweet moment," Gabriel said. "I had a good time."