By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Valencia, Duran lead Cards to 11th-place finish
Placeholder Image
Armando Valencia and Isaac Duran returned home from San Diego on Friday. The Ceres Youth Baseball products helped lead the Modesto Cards 16-and-under baseball team to an 11th-place finish in a field of 28 at the United States Amateur Baseball Federation World Series.

"It's the best experience I have had in my entire life," said Valencia, whose team compiled a 4-5 record.

Modesto played nine games in eight days.

The 18th-seeded Cards lost to ninth-seeded Tri Valley Baseball on Friday in the first round of the single-elimination championship bracket.

Modesto advanced to the championship bracket by winning two of three games in the double-elimination bracket. The Cards beat the Highlanders and San Bernardino Terror.

In pool play, Modesto went 2-3. The Cards defeated the Inland Bulldogs and Showtime Baseball.

Valencia, 15, missed the first week of school so he could pitch and play in the outfield for the Cards. The Ceres High sophomore played in four games.

"I wasn't thinking about anything out there," he said. "I was focused on baseball."

Valencia pitched in three games and started one game in left field.

"I did good," he said. "I threw about seven innings total and didn't give up any runs with 10 strikeouts."

Valencia went 3-for-4 with a double, two singles, three stolen bases and two RBIs against the Seattle Bombers.

"He worked his butt off," said Modesto coach Sam Nichols Jr. "He had a great attitude. Those are the kind of players you need on a championship team."

Duran, a junior-to-be at Johansen High School, was relegated to the bench after getting hit by a pitch on his right wrist during his first at bat of the first game. The third baseman/pitcher played in just three games.

"He wasn't able to pitch for us at all this whole tournament," Nichols said. "He definitely would have helped us out. He's also our No. 4 batter."

Duran had an RBI double during Modesto's 9-2 win over San Bernardino.

Modesto earned a berth in the World Series by finishing second at a Super-Series Baseball of America qualifier tournament in San Jose during the Fourth of July weekend.

The Cards compiled a 25-15 record this summer.

Nichols assembled the team, which features players from Beyer, Central Catholic, Ceres, Davis, Downey, Hughson, Modesto Christian and Johansen, in May. More than 30 players tried out. Just 17 made the cut.

"I'm going to play for them next summer," Valencia said. "They asked me to return."

Said Nichols: "There's a great possibility he (Isaac) will play up next year (on the 18-and-under team)."

Duran and Valencia played on the same for two years and competed against each other for five years in Little League. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier