Ceres High School’s varsity baseball team will close out the Western Athletic Conference season this week with a pivotal two-game series against El Capitan.
The Bulldogs are vying for their second consecutive WAC championship.
“Our confidence is high right now,” Ceres High senior pitcher/infielder Brad Bussard said. “We know what we need to do. We have to win one of the two games. We’re in a good position. I’d definitely be surprised if we didn’t repeat. We have experience that no other teams in our league have. We have a solid team.”
The first-place Bulldogs (20-5, 9-1) and second-place Gauchos (12-8-1, 8-2) will battle in Ceres today and in Merced on Tuesday.
Both games will get underway at 4 p.m.
Ceres High has two of the best starting pitchers in the WAC in Bussard and Drew Stahl.
Brad and Drew have a combined record of 9-0 with five complete games and 76 strikeouts.
“We have the pitching to beat anyone,” Bussard said. “We just have to score runs.”
Ceres High ranks first in runs scored in WAC play.
The Bulldogs have outscored their conference opponents, 76-24.
Stahl batted .500 with one homer, three doubles, six RBIs and 10 runs through Ceres High’s first 10 league games.
Bussard batted .471 with one triple, four doubles, 16 RBIs, 12 runs and nine stolen bases.
Merrick Price batted .423 with one double, four RBIs and 12 runs.
Brett Conway batted .281 with one triple, two doubles, 16 RBIs and five runs.
The Gauchos’ top pitcher is Tyler Skelton. The junior has a perfect 4-0 record with a 0.88 ERA and 30 strikeouts.
El Capitan has also counted upon sophomores Sai Davuluri (2-1 record, 0.00 ERA, 21 strikeouts) and James Sellers (1-1, 1.75, 17).
The Gauchos have the second-best offense in the WAC.
El Capitan has outscored its league opponents, 64-27.
Skelton batted .312 with four doubles, seven RBIs and nine runs through El Capitan’s first 10 league games.
Braiden Ward batted .452 with one triple, three RBIs and 12 runs.
Sammy Mora batted .484 with one double, 13 RBIs and six runs.
Fernando Rodriguez batted .417 with one double, eight RBIs and three runs.
Kobe Nguyen batted .286 with seven RBIs and 10 runs.
El Capitan will try to prevent the Bulldogs from winning back-to-back WAC titles.
“It would be a huge accomplishment for our program,” Bussard said while talking about the possibility of repeating as conference champs. “I don’t think it’s ever been done in baseball at Ceres High.”