Turlock defensive end Devin Bradley celebrates a stop by the Bulldogs' defense during a season-opening win over Freedom of Oakley on Aug. 23, 2019. The Bulldogs return home to face another Bulldog this Thursday -- Tracy High, its annual Dogbone rival. (Samantha Schmidt)

Hughson gets back on track with mercy-rule win over TVL rival

Joe Cortez
-

HILMAR — Hughson baseball coach said he was excited to see how his team responded following their first loss of the season on Tuesday at the hands of Trans-Valley League rival Hilmar.

After Thursday’s 14-0 mercy-rule victory in Game 2 of the home-and-home series, Garza must be overjoyed.

The Huskies, the No. 1 team in Front Row Preps’ small-school rankings, bounced back from their first loss of 2019 with a dominating performance. Junior Seth Garza won his fifth game of the season — second in the region to only Mariposa’s Leo Kari (6) and the Hughson offense scored in all five innings of the shortened game, including eight runs in the fourth inning to blow it open.

“We met yesterday for about, no joke, for about an hour,” said Garza, now in his third year as the Huskies’ pilot. “And we just talked about what it’s going to take to get back on track. And it wasn’t even about the score. … Just said, ‘I don’t care if we win or lose tomorrow, I want to see team energy, I want to see people pulling for each other and whatever happens, happens.

What happened is what’s been happening a lot this season … lopsided Hughson. But after Tuesday’s 11-4 loss the Hilmar, a little negativity crept into the Huskies’ dugout.

Garza wouldn’t allow that negativity to pull up a seat and get comfortable. He stressed to his team the need to sharpen its focus on process, and not results. Losses will happen, he reasoned, but as long as the players stay true to the process, results — the kind that more often than not lead to victories — will come. 

“We always preach being process-oriented and not result,” said Garza. What we saw the other day the kids were responding to the result. The result wasn’t going their way, so they got off of doing the things that we know to be good baseball … the process.”

Process is basically another term for Husky baseball — with hitters working the count, drawing walks and putting the ball in play to put pressure on the defense.

So, how’s this for working the count? In five innings, Hughson made Hilmar pitchers Barker, Pimentel and Olvera throw a combined 146 pitches, while Garza threw just 57 — a whopping 43 of them (75 percent) for strikes), which is basically like saying, “Here, hit this if you can … I trust my defense to get it if you do.” 

Garza struck out six of the 16 batters he faced, walked none and allowed just two hits. Meanwhile, the Huskies drew eight walks and pounded out 13 hits, striking out just four times in 29 at-bats.

Process.

“We were pretty confident after our practice yesterday,” said shortstop Jeremiah Langan, who was 1-for-3 with a two walks and two runs scored. “We worked really hard and just determined to come back after that loss because it really kind of put us down and we really wanted to come back after that.”

Hughson (12-1) improves to to 3-1 in the TVL race, tied atop the standings with Escalon and Livingston. Hilmar (5-5), meanwhile, dips to 2-2 in conference action, trailing the frontrunners by a full game and Ripon (1-1) by a half game.

The Huskies take on Riverbank (0-2) next week, while Hilmar has the league bye and will play a home-and-home set against Golden Valley.