Ceres High's and Central Valley's varsity baseball teams earned the Western Athletic Conference's No. 2 and 3 seeds for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs in 2013.
The Bulldogs advanced to the postseason for the third year in a row.
The Hawks made history by making their first-ever playoff appearance.
Both programs are hungry for more success.
"This is a really good group of kids," said Ceres High head coach John Bussard, whose team compiled a 20-7-1 overall record and placed second in the WAC standings (10-2) last year. "They've been fun to work with. Every single player tries to get better every day. They truly want the prize at the end of the rainbow."
The Bulldogs will move forward without 2013 Ceres High grads/first-team all-conference players Jimbo Pernetti, Brandon Arevalos and Haydon Turpin.
"Everybody talks about what we lost," Bussard said. "We got quite a bit of experience coming back. There's talent on this team. We can compete with anybody."
The Bulldogs will rely on a host of players this year, including third-year varsity members Brad Bussard (Jr.), Brent Bussard (Jr.), Brett Conway (Jr.) and Jimmy Bates (Sr.).
Brad Bussard will pitch and play shortstop. He garnered second-team, all-conference honors his sophomore year. Brad posted an 8-2 record with a 1.62 ERA, 54 strikeouts, 18 walks, four complete games and two shutouts. He batted .350 with one triple, six doubles, seven stolen bases, 18 RBIs and 29 runs. Bussard had a productive first season of varsity football with the Bulldogs in 2013. The second-team, all-league quarterback tossed for 2,853 yards and 25 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. Bussard had three 400-yard passing games. He totaled a program-record 437 yards and six TDs in his debut versus Modesto High.
Brad added 15 pounds to his 6-foot-1 frame.
"The biggest difference with him is he's gotten a lot stronger," John Bussard said. "He's really hit the weight room. He has a little pop on his fastball now."
Jimmy batted .345 with four triples, eight doubles, 16 RBIs and 24 runs as a junior.
Brent batted .288 with three triples, three doubles, 16 RBIs and 17 runs.
Brett batted .197 with one double, nine RBIs and seven runs.
Other Bulldog returnees include Alan Marquez (Sr.), Dylan Canatsy (Sr.) and Brandon Machado (Sr.).
Marquez batted .369 with two homers, three doubles, 15 RBIs and 20 runs.
Canatsy batted .302 with three doubles, 13 RBIs and 16 runs.
Machado batted .261 with one triple, one double, four RBIs and three runs.
Evan Duran (Sr.), Izaiah Hernandez (Jr.), Caleb McDade (Jr.), Merrik Price (Jr.), Blake Tobler (Jr.) and Ramon Coral (Jr.) are new to the team.
Hernandez, McDade, Price and Tobler contributed at the JV level last year.
Merrik batted .370 with four doubles, 19 RBIs and 13 runs.
Ceres High needed to split with Central Catholic during the final week of the 2013 regular season to capture the WAC title.
The Bulldogs lost twice to the tradition-rich Raiders (11-1).
Ceres High had to settle for second place despite reeling off 10 straight wins.
"We talked about the NCAA basketball tournament," coach Bussard said. "You got to believe in yourself and don't get caught up in what other teams have done in the past. We'll worry about Central Catholic when that time comes. That series is not going to matter if we don't take care of business against everyone else. It's a long season."
Central Valley's varsity baseball team reached unprecedented heights during founding head coach Greg Magni's final year at the helm last spring.
The Hawks posted a program-best 19-9 record, placed third in the WAC (6-6) and participated in the playoffs.
Derrick Goblirsch was named Magni's successor in June. Greg stepped down to become Central Valley's new athletic director.
Goblirsch, a 2005 Ceres High grad and an assistant with the Hawks for the past two seasons, earned a promotion.
"It's a great opportunity I couldn't pass up," Derrick said. "It's something that I've always wanted to do."
"It was an easy choice," Magni said. "I didn't think about other options. I think it will be a smooth transition. We have a lot of things in common. He's taking over the program at the same age I started it. He's very knowledgeable about the game of baseball. He's very organized and focused. I don't see any reason why he won't be successful."
Central Valley lost its top player to graduation in 2013 WAC MVP Ruben Casas.
His leadership and production will be missed.
Casas pitched, batted third and played shortstop.
He compiled a 9-3 record with a 2.76 ERA, 87 strikeouts, one shutout and three complete games.
The Hawks return nine players from last year's team, including Michael Ereso (Sr.), Raul Godinez (Sr.), Jorge Alvarez (Jr.), Kendel Johnson (Sr.), Rogelio Avina (Sr.), Austin Burns (Sr.), Michael Collins (Sr.), Logan Dowling (Sr.) and Robert Gutierrez (Sr.).
Michael and Raul were both selected to the WAC Second Team in 2013.
Ereso batted .425 with two doubles, 15 RBIs, 30 runs and five stolen bases.
Michael had a 5-5 record with a 2.92 ERA, 51 strikeouts, two shutouts and five complete games at pitcher.
Godinez batted .312 with one double, nine RBIs, 28 runs and seven stolen bases.
Alvarez batted .434 with one triple, three doubles, 26 RBIs and 20 runs.
Johnson batted .391 with one homer, two doubles, nine RBIs, 13 runs and five stolen bases.
Avina batted .333 with two RBIs and four runs.
Burns batted .258 with 10 RBIs, 10 runs and seven stolen bases.
Collins batted .254 with three doubles, five RBIs and eight runs.
Dowling batted .200 with two doubles, four RBIs and four runs.
Joseph Garcia (Sr.), Christian Schneider (Sr.), Daevon Brown (Jr.), Andrew Brekke (Jr.), Alex Centeno (Jr.), Adam Eredia (Jr.), Joseph Montalvo (Jr.), Juan Ochoa (Jr.), Ben Ortiz (Jr.) and Carlos Uribe (Jr.) are first-year varsity players.
Montalvo, Ochoa, Brekke, Centeno, Ortiz, Eredia and Uribe suited up for the JV Hawks last season.
Montalvo batted .342 with one triple, six doubles, 16 RBIs and 12 runs.
Ochoa batted .304 with four doubles, 11 RBIs and 10 runs.
Brekke batted .296 with one double, 16 RBIs and 12 runs.
Centeno batted .268 with one double, 12 RBIs and 24 runs.
Ortiz batted .260 with three doubles, 12 RBIs and 11 runs.
Eredia batted .240 with six RBIs and two runs.
Uribe batted .200 with one double and five runs.
"Our program's headed in the right direction," Goblirsch said.
The Hawks compiled a .500 record in WAC play a year ago.
Central Valley dealt seven-time WAC champion Central Catholic its lone loss in league play.
The Hawks posted a 6-2 win over the Raiders.
Central Valley nearly earned a sweep. Ahead 7-6, the Hawks surrendered one run in the seventh inning and six in the eighth on their way to a 13-7 loss to Central Catholic.
Central Valley lost 4-1 and 10-0 to Ceres High.
The Hawks beat the crosstown Bulldogs 9-5 en route to a first-place finish at Art McRae Tournament.
Central Valley also topped Division-I playoff participant Pitman, 12-0.