Swimming: Larson a rising star

San Benito High's Grace Larson won two individual events in last week's MBL Championships.

When the San Benito High baseball team lost three straight games in mid-April, the concerns around the program were palpable.
Still, it would be a stretch to say anyone was panicking, because the team was still confident it could turn things around. Now we know why. Since that mini skid, San Benito has won three of its last four games entering Friday’s game against Palma.
With a 10-5 record in the Monterey League’s Gabilan Division, the Balers are one game up on second-place Salinas entering Friday’s action.
After this week’s contests, both teams have two games left before the start of the Central Coast Section playoffs.
“It’s a good time to get on a roll right now,” Balers coach Billy Aviles said after an 11-3 win over Salinas on May 1, San Benito’s third victory over the Cowboys this season in as many tries. “We did have a little bit of a rough patch, but a little bit of adversity always makes you stronger. The guys wanted to come out and prove something today.”
San Benito laid the hammer on Salinas with a five-run third inning, highlighted by Zack Moeller’s two-run home run that gave the Balers a 4-2 advantage they would never relinquish.
Tyler Biersdorff, Garret Kelly and Drew Williams added RBI singles in the inning; Kelly scored four times and Moeller finished with four RBIs. Connor Fabing earned the win, allowing two runs over four innings while also going 2 for 4 from the cleanup spot.
Tommy Hernandez, Biersdorff and Macen Schwer combined to pitch three innings of one-run relief. San Benito would be on a four-game win streak had it not suffered a 4-3 loss to Monterey on April 28, a game that lasted an incredible 13 innings.
Although Aviles was disappointed that the team couldn’t execute properly with runners in scoring position against Monterey, he’s been pleased with the players’ grit and resiliency.
“We’ve had great focus in practice,” he said. “Today in every offensive opportunity, we executed.”
Like all coaches, Aviles understands baseball is a game of mistakes. Players and coaches alike will make them; however, one thing Aviles can’t accept is a lack of effort.
“In some of the games we’ve lost, I don’t feel we came with our best effort,” he said. “I always preach coming with perfect effort. You’re not going to be perfect with every pitch or every swing, because there are too many variables in the game. But I always feel you can have perfect effort.”
It’s no coincidence San Benito has rebounded after suffering a 6-4 loss to Monte Vista Christian on April 23. That defeat came after back-to-back losses to Christopher, and suddenly the Balers—who had led the Gabilan Division race from the first week of the league season—was looking up to Salinas in the standings.
Instead of going into a tailspin, San Benito showed its mettle, progressively improving in every facet of the game. Aviles said the Balers still have plenty of things to work on, with defense being one area.
San Benito committed three errors against Salinas, mistakes that would’ve been likely fatal had it been playing a CCS postseason game.
“Hopefully we’ll be firing on all cylinders and have a lot of momentum going into the playoffs,” Aviles said. “I think that Monterey game woke the kids up a bit, and it’ll be an interesting stretch run for us. Everybody is more focused and looking to get things done. When you heighten your focus, good things are going to happen.”
San Benito’s lineup hasn’t been quite as productive as it was a year ago; however, Aviles said the offense was coming around, particularly in the case of Moeller, a senior catcher who has earned a scholarship to play at the University of Utah.
“Zack got cold in the middle of the season, but he’s back to his normal self,” Aviles said. “He’ll be big for us down the stretch. Behind the dish, he shuts down the (opposing team’s) running game and controls the defense.”
San Benito closes out the season with contests against Palma, Christopher and Monte Vista Christian—three teams it has lost to this season. Aviles said if the players come with the proper mindset before every game, the Balers should be able to make another deep playoff run.
“I liked our intensity from pitch one (against Salinas),” he said. “From the bench to the starters, everyone was in it.”

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