Ceres High School's varsity baseball program embraced the challenge of trying to repeat as Western Athletic Conference champions.
The Bulldogs needed to win one of two games versus El Capitan during the final week of the regular season to annex their second consecutive WAC title.
"We accomplished our goal," said Ceres High head coach John Bussard, whose team earned a two-game sweep of the Gauchos. "This is pretty special. We're proud of the kids. We have three sophomores in our starting lineup. This is an example of us rebuilding while competing. They handled the pressure well."
The Bulldogs improved to 22-5 on the year and posted a near-perfect 11-1 record in the WAC.
The Gauchos dropped to 12-10-1 overall and tied for third place in conference play with Los Banos at 8-4.
Ceres High won its final six conference games after splitting with Los Banos.
"We put a lot of onus on the players to set the bar high for themselves," Bussard said. "That extends into the classroom. They know what's expected of them."
Ceres High tallied six runs in the top of the third inning en route to coasting to an 8-2 victory against El Capitan on May 5 in Merced.
The result of the final contest proved to be meaningless in the standings as the Bulldogs secured the WAC title the day before.
"We had it wrapped up," Bussard said. "There was no pressure."
Ceres High batted 12-for-30 on offense against El Capitan.
Drew Stahl finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and one run.
Brad Bussard finished 2-for-3 with two triples, one RBI and two runs.
Brent Bussard finished 2-for-3 with one double, one RBI and two runs.
Brett Conway finished 1-for-3 with one RBI and one run.
Merrik Price finished 1-for-4 with one RBI and one run.
Ricky Lopez finished 1-for-3 with one RBI.
Izaiah Hernandez finished 1-for-2 with one run.
Haaydn Martinez finished 1-for-3.
Ceres High pitcher Brad Bussard had a perfect 5-0 mark in WAC play this season.
Bussard yielded two runs (one earned) and six hits with five strikeouts and no walks in seven innings versus El Capitan last week.
The Bulldogs built a 3-0 lead and held on for a 4-2 win over the Gauchos on May 4 at Art McRae Field.
Ceres High won despite batting just .174 (4-for-23) from the plate with 10 strikeouts against El Capitan's Sai Davuluri, who allowed no earned runs and four hits.
The Bulldogs took advantage of four Gaucho errors.
Brad Bussard drove in two runs and scored once.
Hernandez singled once and scored twice.
Price plated one run.
Conway singled twice.
Drew won all six of his starts on the mound in WAC play.
Stahl had six strikeouts and two walks in seven innings.
He allowed two runs (one earned) and four hits.
The Bulldogs have won 22 of 24 WAC games dating back to last season.
Ceres High's posted a combined overall record of 65-19-1 since 2013.
"This is my 24th year of coaching varsity baseball," said John Bussard, who was promoted to leader of the Bulldogs in 2012. "We've had three years in a row at Ceres High where we've surpassed 20 wins. Prior to that, I've only experienced that once as a coach."