Hughson Baseball Championship Game

Young Hughson baseball team shows promise in 3-1 loss in Section Division V title game
Posted on 05/27/2022
Baseball Team 2022

Hughson’s baseball team may have lost Thursday night’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship game 3-1 to Bradshaw Christian, but there is a very good chance it won’t be the Huskies’ last chance to earn a blue banner signifying a title.


Hughson started only two seniors, one of whom was third baseman and team MVP Ethan Jones. The rest of the 10-player lineup (including the designated hitter) consisted of four freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors – all of whom are expected to return next season. All that young talent should make the Huskies under coach Charly Garza one of the Section favorites for the next few years.


“They really came together this year,” said Garza of his players. “They learned to be good teammates, which is not easy in a team sport, because you may be rooting for a guy who’s trying to take your sport. We talk about things we can control and putting in the work – if you do that and you put in your best effort, we’re very happy for you. And these kids did that.”


Like many young teams, Hughson (22-10) got better and better as the season progressed and the players gained more experience. The Huskies needed to beat Livingston on the final day of the regular season just to make the playoffs, but once in, they played their best baseball of the season. Seeded sixth in the eight-team bracket, they knocked off No. 3 Colfax 7-6 in the first round, then took two of three against No. 2 Linden in the semifinals.


That earned Hughson a spot in the single-game championship against top-seeded Bradshaw Christian (23-4).


The Huskies sent their ace, freshman Robert McDaniel, to the mound. With a week’s rest, he was dominant at times, striking out 11 Bradshaw hitters over six innings while allowing only five hits and one walk. Only one of the three runs against him was earned.


Hughson’s defense made a couple of errors, one of which played a key role in Bradshaw scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning. With a runner on first, Bradshaw hit a fly ball toward left-center field that got pushed by a strong left-to-right wind at breezy Islander’s Field in Lathrop. The ball wasn’t caught, allowing the first run to score. The next hitter followed with a single to right field and the lead was 2-0.


“Any time you play in a ballpark for the first time, there are some unknowns,” said Garza, talking about the first-inning fly ball. “I saw the wind taking it and I knew it was going to be trouble. It could have been caught under normal circumstances in a park we were used to. After that, we made an adjustment. I told our outfielders if the ball was hit to your right, you need to sprint that way because you’re probably going to catch it.”


Garza said McDaniel made a great pitch to the next Bradshaw hitter, but the ball just found the hole between first and second base. “Robert did his job and got soft contact,” the coach said.


Hughson had multiple chances to score, but couldn’t come through with the kind of clutch hit that allowed it to beat Colfax and then Linden in the previous rounds.


“We hit some balls hard, but right at people,” Garza said. “Sometimes, it’s just two or three feet in either direction that makes a difference.”


The Huskies finally broke through in the top of the sixth, but even that rally ended up being disappointing. They loaded the bases with nobody out, but grounded into a double play. One run scored to cut Bradshaw’s lead to 2-1. But with the tying run now on third base, a strikeout ended the inning.


Bradshaw added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on a wind-aided double. Hughson threatened one final time in the top of the seventh inning, getting its first two hitters on base before a strikeout and double play ended the game.


“We just couldn’t get that hit that we needed,” Garza said. “They had two good pitchers. One guy was throwing in the mid-80s, but we only struck out five times.  Three of the last four innings, we had guys in scoring position but we couldn’t get them in.”


Despite the loss Thursday night, there is much for Husky baseball fans to look forward to in the next few years.


“I saw a hunger in these kids’ eyes yesterday,” Garza said. “Obviously, they’re disappointed because they’re competitors. If they lost in a video game, they’d be disappointed because they like to compete.


“We talked to the boys all the time about the approach to the game. We tell them every game you play is the biggest game because it’s your time to compete. If you do that, these games (playoffs) shouldn’t bother you. We told them we were proud of them because everybody did all that they could.”


The coach also had praise for Hughson’s fans, who supported the team all season.


“Easily three-quarters of the crowd in Lathrop were for Hughson,” Garza said. “It was special. That’s what small-town sports are.”

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