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Trio silences doubters
Bussards, Conway lead CHS baseball program to 84 wins, WAC titles
Brett Conway (left), Brent Bussard and Brad Bussard filled key roles while lifting Ceres Highs varsity baseball team to new heights from 2012-15. The Bulldogs won 84 games, captured back-to-back WAC titles and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs four times. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Recent Ceres High grads Brad Bussard, Brent Bussard and Brett Conway teamed up for the final time at the prep level when they participated in the Merced County-Stanislaus County All-Star Game on June 20 in Merced.

Brad, Brent and Brett had a memorable four-year run of success with the Bulldogs.

The trio helped guide Ceres High to a 84-31-1 overall record, two Western Athletic Conference titles and four Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths from 2012-15.

"It gives validity to what we did four seasons ago with building around that group," said John Bussard, Bulldogs' head coach and the father of twins Brad and Brent. "Many people didn't agree with the decision to pull them up as freshmen. It was an unpopular move. People doubted their abilities. We knew what they were capable of."

"This is the four funnest years of baseball I played in my life," said Brad, who along with his brother, earned partial scholarships to Holy Names University in Oakland. "We turned the baseball program around. We left a legacy that will be remembered for years. It's a great accomplishment."

Brad Bussard developed into one of the top players in the Stanislaus District.

He was voted WAC MVP his senior year.

Bussard, Ceres High's No. 3 hitter, ranked first in conference play in triples (3), doubles (4), RBIs (19), runs (15), stolen bases (10) and slugging percentage (.700), third in fielding percentage (.953), fifth in batting average (.450), and ninth in on-base percentage (.457).

A standout pitcher, Brad ranked second in the WAC in wins (5-0) and complete games (3), and third in ERA (1.18) and strikeouts (34). Just six of the 12 runs Bussard allowed were earned.

Bussard was named WAC Pitcher of the Year as a junior.

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

He batted .244 with two doubles, nine RBIs, nine runs and one stolen base.

"Brad did everything for us," John said. "He's the most competitive kid I know. He isn't going to stop until he's successful."

Brent, Brad's twin brother and Ceres High's starting centerfielder, had a breakout season with the Bulldogs his junior year.

Bussard earned second-team all-league honors. He missed first-team accolades by just one vote.

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

Bussard hit .222 with one double, six RBIs and eight runs in 2015.

"I'm not discrediting what Brad did," John said. "But Brent was an under-appreciated athlete. The next level recognized what he could do by giving him a scholarship."

"I was pretty confident we were going to turn the program around," Brent stated. "I knew the kind of players we were. We had great chemistry. Everybody said we were moved up to varsity as freshmen because of our dad. People said we weren't good enough. It did motivate us a lot. We proved we were good enough to be up there."

Brett started at catcher all four years.

He earned first-team all-conference honors his sophomore, junior and senior years.

Conway batted .316 with one triple, one double, 17 RBIs, six runs and one stolen base during his final season with the Bulldogs.

"Brett has a tremendously high baseball IQ," John said. "He took over pitch-calling duties the beginning of his sophomore year. That whole responsibility was on him. We relied on him to make adjustments. He was one of the best defensive catchers around."

The Bulldogs went 23-7 on the year, captured their second straight WAC crown (11-1) and participated in the postseason for the fifth consecutive year in 2015.

Ceres High advanced to the semi-final round of the Division-IV playoffs.

"We got the whole team to buy in," Brad said. "We had one common goal instead of individual goals."

Brad, Brent and Brett played seven seasons together, including three at the youth level.

They filled major roles as the Bulldogs established a tradition of excellence.

"People thought we had no business being up at varsity," Brad said. "We proved them all wrong with the success we had."