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Catcher-pitcher relationship key to Ceres High Schools varsity baseball success
Brett Conway, pictured right, fills a key role on Ceres High Schools varsity baseball team. The third-year catcher calls games for the Bulldogs pitching staff. Conway shares a special bond with Ceres High ace pitchers Alan Marquez (4) and Brad Bussard. Marquez and Bussard posted a combined record of 15-0 with 94 strikeouts and just 19 walks during the regular season. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Junior Brett Conway plays a vital role on Ceres High School's varsity baseball team.

The third-year catcher has the responsibility of calling games for the Bulldogs' pitching staff.

Conway and second-seeded Ceres High of the Western Athletic Conference will face Valley Oak League runner-up Sierra (20-4, 12-2) in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs this Thursday at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi at 4 p.m.

The Bulldogs (23-6, 11-1) tied for first place atop the WAC standings with eight-time champion Central Catholic this year.

"The one person who has got no credit for what's going on is Brett," Ceres High head coach John Bussard said. "He's taken ownership of the pitchers. The coaches don't call a single pitch. He trusts his pitchers. His pitchers trust him. They very rarely shake him off. He's done a great job for us."

"I won't pitch with somebody else behind the plate," Bulldogs junior pitcher Brad Bussard said. "The coaches know that. Even in bullpen, he's the one catching me. We have a great connection. We're best friends."

Bussard and senior hurler Alan Marquez had a combined record of 15-0 with 94 strikeouts and 19 walks during the regular season.

"People ask who the ace of the staff is," John Bussard said. "Alan is our Tuesday pitcher. Brad is our Thursday pitcher. We rely heavily on both of them. The biggest thing that they are doing is they are not walking people."

"We help each other every day," Brad Bussard added while talking about his relationship with Marquez. "We're competing against each other. But we don't want to see each other lose."

"It's a pretty easy job being a catcher for them," Conway said. "They both locate very well. There's hardly a time they miss a spot. I respect everything they do. They deserve credit, too."

Brad compiled a perfect 7-0 record with a 0.32 ERA, five complete games, 40 strikeouts and 10 walks during the regular season. He allowed just two runs in 432/3 innings.
Bussard hasn't pitched in recent weeks due to arm soreness.

"It's very difficult to watch somebody else pitch when you want to be on the bump," Brad said. "If I'm not 100 percent, there's no reason for me to be out there. There's a possibility I might pitch this week. Right now, I'm going to rehab. I'll do what's best for the team."

Marquez posted an 8-0 record with a 1.59 ERA, three complete games, 54 strikeouts and nine walks. He gave up 13 earned runs in 571/3 innings.

"We knew what we were going to get out of him (Brad)," John said. "He's always been a fireplug for us. There were question marks about Alan going into the season. He's had a lot of success for us. His competitiveness has increased by 10 times. He's become a leader on the team."
"Stats don't matter," Brad stated. "We're just worried about the win column."

"I've played catcher since I was eight," Conway said. "Your mind has to be in the game at all times. That's why I love the position. The most challenging part is trying to know your opponent. You can sit there and second guess yourself."

Conway models his game after 2003 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Gary Carter.

Carter, who died of brain cancer in 2012, helped lead the New York Mets to the World Series title in 1986.

"I'm a big baseball nut," Conway said. "I started following him (Carter) when I was little. I watched his ESPN Classic games. He was my dad's favorite player. Sadly, he passed away."

Conway gives the Bulldogs a veteran presence behind home plate.

Ceres High has two ace pitchers in Bussard and Marquez.

"Brett's not overly vocal," coach Bussard said. "He does a lot of stuff behind the scenes that people don't see. His baseball IQ is tremendous. He has a great arm. He doesn't let anything by him. I've had better hitting catchers. He's the best all-round catcher I've had."

"I give a lot of credit to Brett Conway," Marquez said. "He calls the games. Me and Brad feed off each other. Our defense backs us up."

"They're two of the best pitchers in the area," Conway said. "I've been catching Alan since he was eight and Brad for five years. We're all really close. There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to accomplish something great together."