PREP BASEBALL: Bear River returns to playoffs, faces Los Banos
KNOW & GO
What: Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV playoffs
Who: No. 3 Bear River vs. No. 6 Los Banos
When: 4 p.m., Wednesday
Where: Tony Zupo Field, Lodi
It’s been five years since the Bear River baseball team has played a postseason game. That draught ends today.
The No. 3 seed Bruins (17-9-1) are back in the playoffs and will take on No. 6 seed Los Banos (16-6) in the Sac-Joaquin Section D-IV bracket today at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi.
Despite not having a single player with postseason experience, Bear River head coach Eric Van Patten feels his team is prepared after a tough league and non-league schedule.
“I feel like we are already prepared for the playoffs,” he said. “I told them to act like they’ve been there before. Play like they’ve been there before. We’ve played against great opponents all season, so in a way we have been there.”
The Bruins enter the postseason on a three-game win streak and having won seven of the last eight. But, they are fully aware that the game against Los Banos is a win or go home game.
“As a team we are focusing on taking it one game at a time,” said senior Matt Lopez, who has a .403 batting average and leads the team with 27 RBIs and four home runs. “We want to get that first ‘W’ so we don’t get bounced right away.”
Lopez is just one of three Bear River players that are batting over .400 this season. Senior Bear Belding leads the team with a .456 average, and Jacob Cross is batting .408. Bear River’s leadoff hitter, Griffin Frank, is batting .378 and has 10 stole bases this season, giving the Bruins a formidable first four. Belding and Lopez have both been invited to play in the Optimist All-Star Game after the season.
As a team the Bruins have six players that boast batting averages above .300 and as a team they bat .291. All stats provided by MaxPreps.com.
“We’ve really worked well as a team,” said Frank. “Everybody’s really close.”
Belding said that work started before the season did.
“Everyone worked hard in the offseason and really wanted it,” Belding said. “It’s exciting to make the playoffs, because we worked hard to make it.”
As for Los Banos, Van Patten admitted he didn’t know much about the program, except that they are a team that doesn’t quit.
“I heard they are a pesky opponent, who stays in it until the end,” he said. “Looking at their box scores, it looks like they have won 2/3 of their games in the sixth and seventh innings. That’s a team with character. That’s a team that doesn’t quit.”
Los Banos also enters the postseason on a three-game win streak and having won seven of their last eight. The Tigers finished in third place in the Western Athletic Conference and are in the playoffs for the third straight season. Last year, they were bounced by Placer, who is the No. 7 seed in the bracket and will face No. 2 seed El Capitan today. Bear River and Placer are joined by fellow Pioneer Valley league teams Lincoln (No. 1 seed) and Center (No. 9 seed) in the DIV bracket.
On the season, Los Banos averages 6.3 runs per game and allows 3.2. The Bruins are averaging six runs per game and allowing 4.04.
Van Patten said he hasn’t decided who will be his starter, but it’s between Lopez and Justin Leonard. Leonard led the team in innings pitched and ERA this season. Lopez led the team in strikeouts.
First pitch is set for 4 p.m. at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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