Brad Showers knows that he has a senior-heavy baseball team that is close-knit and eager to prove how good they are.
So even when his Stockdale team gives up four runs in the top of the first inning in the Terrio Classic American Division championship game, Showers worries, but knows the game isn’t over.
Stockdale scored 12 unanswered runs to beat Liberty 12-4 on Monday at home in the championship game. It's the second of at least five games between these two Southwest Yosemite League and Central Section Division I favorites.
Stockdale beat Liberty 8-1 last week in an early round of the tournament.
“Of course I was worried, but with 21 outs to play my first thing was that this is a good test early in the season,” Stockdale coach Showers said. “It allowed us to see how we respond, and that’s what we did.”
After Liberty (3-3) capitalized on two fielding errors by Stockdale (6-0) and Matteo Valenzuela and J.J. Druan both had RBI singles, the Mustangs fired back quickly.
Stockdale scored twice in the first inning on a two-run single by Kade Sheedy after Jalen Smith, Cory Blackburn and Jacob Ruley loaded the bases via walks.
Blackburn then hit a three-run double in the second inning off a hit that went to the centerfield fence as Smith nearly caught up to Sean Mullen as the two were rounding third base and heading into home.
Mullen, who is signed to UCLA and attracts more than a dozen Major League Baseball scouts to games, and Smith, signed to UC Davis, went a combined 1-3 at the plate but reached base seven times and scored three of the 12 Stockdale runs.
Hitting behind the two standouts, Blackburn, Ruley, Sheedy and Murillo combined for five hits and eight RBIs.
“We’ve got a really tough one through nine (in the batting order),” Showers said. “I can’t say enough about Cory Blackburn. He had a heck of a tournament… We are playing well as a team. We are pitching well, swinging it well and it’s a long season but I am happy with where I am now.”
Stockdale, which lost to eventual section D-I champions Clovis in the semifinals last season. The Mustangs began the season ranked No. 13 in California in Cal-Hi Sports’ preseason Top 25.
With so much returning leadership from a year ago, led by Mullen, Smith, Eli Brum and Michael Kreese, who along with another senior in Murillo, threw six shutout innings after the rough first.
“These kids are so tight. They are best friends,” Showers said. “I am not just saying that because we have a good team. They love each other. They fight for each other and I think this was a good example of that. Being down 4-0, they didn’t panic.”
Liberty’s three losses this season have come to Stockdale twice and Clovis. With LSU-bound senior Easton McMurray yet to throw an inning so far in the young season, Patriots coach Tony Mills knows he’s getting his team ready for the long haul this spring knowing a three-game league series is looming against Stockdale in April and May.
“There is no doubt about it when you play Stockdale,” Mills said. “Those guys are tough. They are a senior-dominate team that has played in a lot of tough games. They’ve taken it to us twice and are going to be tough to beat.”