The Los Banos baseball team slipped into the playoffs this week, beating Central Valley on Monday and Tuesday to avoid a tiebreaker game with the Hawks.
Both teams entered the week tied for the third Western Athletic Conference playoff spot, but Los Banos’ 11-0 victory Monday and 13-10 victory Tuesday kept the Tigers’ season alive.
“To be honest, the coaches were more excited than the players. I asked them when we huddled up if they knew what they did,” Los Banos coach Pat Fuentes said. “I’m a tough guy and I coach tough, but I’m proud of you guys. I don’t say it often, but I meant it when I said it. We’re not done yet by any means, but to accomplish our goal and make the playoffs is big.”
Los Banos and Central Valley went scoreless the first two innings of Monday’s game in Los Banos, but the Tigers got all they needed with an 11-run third inning, during which they batted around almost twice – 16 batters walked to the plate that half-inning.
But for starter Brevin Welch, one run would have been all he needed in a one-hit shutout – his second straight complete-game shutout after last week’s 4-0 victory over Pacheco in the Atwater-Winton Lions Tournament. Welch struck out six in five innings of work. After a Raul Godinez double and a hit batsman in the first inning, the Hawks didn’t get another runner on base.
“Brevin knew. I didn’t tell him he was going to pitch. I got to the game today and I told him, but he knew he was pitching and he told me he was ready and felt good,” Fuentes said. “He came out and dominated. One hit, beaned somebody, and that’s it. Can’t ask for a better outing than that.”
On the flip side, for one inning it seemed like no Los Banos batter could do wrong. The Tigers racked up nine hits and 11 runs in the third inning, with two batters reaching by error and three via walks.
“We came out a little slow, and a lot of people were having problems waiting back on the ball, but the second time around,” said left fielder Michael Severino, who belted a two-run double in that inning. “Everyone definitely made adjustments, waited back on the ball, and got some hits in there.
“Definitely feels good just for the team, you know, all the work in practice. It’s nice to see everyone transfer from the cages over.”
Things didn’t go as smooth the next day in Ceres – after Los Banos opened the first inning with eight runs, Central Valley knocked Los Banos starter Chris Corral around for five in the bottom of the frame. Steven Domanski gave up two in the second, and Josh Gould was finally able to hold back the floodgates, putting up goose eggs in the next three innings to earn the victory.
“It’s kind of funny, because you could feel that just because we were up eight-zip, sometimes you can see the other team is done,” Fuentes said. “And we could see that they had life, they weren’t going to give up. They knew what was on the line, that Central Valley wasn’t going to roll over for us. They really came prepared and it came out all right.”
Fuentes said lead-off man Corbin Lilledahl, Alec Barcellos and Tyler Slayday all had good days at the plate, sparking the Los Banos offense.
As the third seed from the WAC, Los Banos will travel to Oakdale, the third seed from the Valley Oak League, on Monday for an outbracket game to kick off the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs.
“The good thing about it is 20 years ago, me and three coaches beat Oakdale for a title and a league championship,” Fuentes said. “Oakdale’s a storied program that everybody wants to be like, but we have to come out and show them that Los Banos is going to be for real from now on.”