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CHS, CVHS baseball squads targeting league titles, playoffs
Chris Garcia, Fernando Dominguez
Chris Garcia, Fernando Dominguez and Central Valley’s baseball team have high expectations for the 2024 season. The Hawks fell one win short of qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs last year. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Ceres High’s baseball program advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the second year in a row this past spring.

Hurt by injuries, Central Valley fell one win short of qualifying for the postseason.

The Bulldogs and Hawks both have high hopes heading into the 2024 campaign.

“We learned a lot last year,” Ceres High head coach Raul Godinez said. “The goal is to be better this season. We want to keep moving forward. We’re slowly building.”

“This year is about competing and building for the future,” Central Valley leader Brad Bussard stated.

The Bulldogs welcome back seven players from a season, including Kyan Bowen (Sr.), Brayden Clark (Sr.), David Diaz De Leon (Sr.), Diego Mariscal (Sr.), Ernesto Miranda (Sr.), Vincent Castrejon (Jr.) and Carson Ulrich (Jr.).

Ceres High has six newcomers: Donovan Osuna (Sr.), Isac Cazarez (Jr.), Daniel Davis (Jr.), Xivier Garcia (Jr.), Aiden Maines (Jr.) and Zachary Van Atta (Jr.).

Landyn Hudson, Jorge Gonzalez, Zion Wesir, Josh Prestridge, Xander Hernandez, Adrian Ontiveros and Zeph Rochell were all lost to graduation.

“Practices are competitive. The guys are pushing each other. That’s what we want. You can’t slack off. If you’re not doing your job, there’s a guy that’s working hard right behind you that could also play your position.”

Clark garnered Western Athletic Conference recognition this past season.

The second-team all-league pitcher posted a 5-1 record with 33 strikeouts.

“He’s a competitor. He performs at his best when the pressure is on. When he’s on, it’s a big energy boost.”

Castrejon batted .333 from the plate with seven doubles, four RBIs and 10 runs last spring.

Bowen batted .310 with one double and eight runs.

Mariscal batted .184 with one double and five RBIs.

Miranda batted .182 with two RBIs.

Diaz De Leon batted .156 with one double and two RBIs.

Ulrich scored one run.

Clark, Diaz Deleon, Castrejon and Ulrich are team leaders.

“They’re role models,” Godinez said. “They’re great teammates. They know the program. They’re what we want our baseball players to be. They’re respectful and play the game right.”

Central Valley welcomes back eight players from last year’s team, including Juan Alonzo (Sr.), Raul Hernandez (Sr.), Josiah Sandoval (Sr.), Edmund Stewart (Sr.), Caiden Whittle (Sr.), Chris Garcia (Jr.), Edgar Peralta (Jr.) and Fernando Dominguez (So.). 

The Hawks have eight newcomers: Nicholas Dominguez (Jr.), Andre Flores (Jr.), Aiden Prudhel (Jr.), Gabriel Reyes (Jr.), Hunter Shaw (Jr.), Caden Mendoca (So.), Mason Whitworth (So.) and Isaias Valdovinos (So.).

Jayson Casias, Diego Delahoya, Miguel Espinoza, Ryan Estermann, Gage Mastropierro, Jake Olson and Martin Reyes were all lost to graduation.

“Talent-wise, we’re better than last year,” Bussard said. “The difference is we’re super young.”

Catcher Fernando Dominguez was rewarded during the Central California Conference year-end head coaches’ meeting a year ago.

He .233 from the plate with six doubles, 11 RBIs and seven runs as a freshman.

Hernandez batted .500 with one RBI and two runs.

Sandoval batted .259 with one double and six runs.

Peralta batted .250 with three doubles, one RBI and three runs.

Whittle batted .200 with three RBIs and eight runs.

Stewart batted .200 with one doubles, six RBIs and seven runs.

Garcia batted .194 with three doubles, seven RBIs and five runs.

Alonzo batted .182 with two doubles, three RBIs and two runs.

Garcia and Stewart are team leaders.

Garcia was limited to just nine innings at pitcher last season due to arm fatigue.

He allowed one run and three hits with nine strikeouts while making three appearances.

“Having Chris back in our rotation is huge for our pitching depth,” Bussard said. “He gives our team confidence when he’s on the mound. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best pitchers in the area.”

Ceres High amassed a 7-17 overall record, finished in fourth place in the WAC (6-8) and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in 2023.

The Bulldogs managed to advance to the postseason for the third time in five years despite losing their first five games. 

Sixteenth-seeded Ceres High lost 5-0 to top-seeded Pitman in the first round of the Division-II playoffs.

Ceres High’s 2024 conference schedule includes home-and-away games against Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Los Banos, Pacheco, Lathrop and Mountain House.

“League is wide open for everybody,” Godinez said. “That makes it interesting. I like competition. Hopefully, we have more good days than bad days. We want to play clean baseball. We’re shooting for a winning season.”

Central Valley compiled a 13-12 overall record and placed fourth in the CCC with a 5-7 mark a year ago. The top three teams in conference play advanced to the playoffs.

The Hawks fell one win short of qualifying for the postseason.

Central Valley’s 2024 league schedule includes home-and-away games against Patterson, Atwater, Buhach Colony, Merced, Golden Valley and El Capitan.

“Our talent is up there with some of the best teams in the area,” Bussard said. 

“The goal is to compete for a league championship and make playoffs,” he added.

Central Valley and Livingston will move from the CCC and Trans Valley League, respectively, to the WAC as part of the section’s league realignment plan next school year.

WAC members Los Banos and Mountain House will depart for the CCC and Valley Oak League.

“It’s going to give us an opportunity to routinely win league championships,” Bussard said. “We’re going to be the top dog.”

“I’m excited for the future,” Godinez added.

Vincent Castrejon, Brayden Clark
Vincent Castrejon, Brayden Clark and Ceres High’s baseball team will vie for their second straight Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance this spring. - photo by Dale Butler