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Ceres High, CV varsity baseball teams have high hopes for season
Bulldogs have strong tradition to uphold
Central Valleys varsity baseball team has a new ace pitcher in junior Michael Lopez.

Ceres High's varsity baseball team made history last season by winning its first conference title since 1991.

The Bulldogs (23-7, 11-1) shared the WAC title with eight-time champion Central Catholic.

Ceres High also secured its fourth consecutive postseason berth.

Crosstown-rival Central Valley had its playoff hopes dashed during the final week of the 2014 WAC season.

The Hawks placed fourth in the league standings (6-6). Central Valley posted a 17-10 overall record.

The Bulldogs and Hawks have high hopes for the 2015 season.

"The kids believe they should be able to do it," Ceres High head coach John Bussard said when asked if his team would repeat as WAC champions. "The talent is there. We definitely like what we have. We tried to make our preseason as tough as possible to prepare us for that."

"Obviously, we'd like to make the playoffs," Central Valley head coach Derrick Goblirsch said. "We're capable of doing it."

Ceres High will rely on a host of players this season, including veterans Brad Bussard (Sr.), Brent Bussard (Sr.) and Brett Conway (Sr.).

Brad, Brent and Brett were promoted to the varsity level as freshmen.

The trio helped guide the Bulldogs to a combined overall record of 61-24-1, one conference title and three postseason appearances from 2012-14.

"The core group is looking at the opportunity of making it to the playoffs every year and possibly winning two league titles," coach Bussard said. "This is what we envisioned four years ago."

Brad, Brett and Brent earned all-conference honors last season.

Brad and Brett were both selected to the WAC First Team.

Brad compiled a 4-0 record with a conference-leading 0.52 ERA, to go along with 23 strikeouts at pitcher.

He batted .244 with two doubles, nine RBIs, nine runs, one stolen base and a .950 fielding percentage.

Conway batted .452 with three doubles, 10 RBIs, eight runs and a .986 fielding percentage.

Brent missed garnering first-team recognition by one vote.

He batted .406 with one triple, two doubles, nine RBIs, 13 runs, one stolen base and a 1.000 fielding percentage.

Izaiah Hernandez (Sr.), Merrick Price (Sr.), Drew Stahl (Sr.), Ricky Lopez (So.), Haaydn Martinez (So.) and Ismael Ontiveros (So.) will fill key roles as well.

Hernandez and Price are returners.

Stahl, Lopez, Martinez and Ontiveros are newcomers.

Drew transferred from Beyer High School.

Ricky, Haaydn and Ismael were members of Ceres High's junior-varsity baseball team.

"We're competing and rebuilding at the same time," coach Bussard said. "We'll have three sophomores that will get a lot of playing time."

Central Valley's top returners are Jorge Alvarez (Sr.), Ben Ortiz (Sr.), Andrew Brekke (Sr.) and Juan Ochoa (Sr.).

Jorge was selected to the WAC Second Team his junior year. Alvarez batted .400 with three doubles, seven RBIs and five runs.

Newcomers Michael Lopez (Jr.), Robert Nieto (Jr.), Gabriel Quezada (So.) and Israel Anaya (Fr.) will also contribute.

Central Valley, which participated in the playoffs for the first time in program history in 2013, had its season cut short by Los Banos last season. The Tigers secured the conference's third and final postseason berth following their two-game sweep of the Hawks.

"We're young," Goblirsch said. "Ceres High has a lot of experience coming back. They're going to be tough to beat for everybody in our league. They have two solid pitchers, play defense and can hit."