Baler baseball, softball advance in CCS

Jordan Yeager went six innings strong to lead the Balers to a 4-2 win over Los Gatos. Photo by Robert Eliason.

The San Benito High baseball and softball teams are both at full strength and seemingly peaking at the perfect time—in the Central Coast Section playoffs. Both squads advanced out of Saturday’s quarterfinal round just in time before the rain started to really pour down in the San Jose and Los Gatos area.

In baseball, the No. 6 seed Haybalers (21-6) received a two-run double from Jacob Burley and six solid innings from Jordan Yeager in a 4-2 win over No. 3 Los Gatos (21-8) at Bellarmine High. San Benito plays No. 2 Mitty (20-10) in the semifinals at San Jose Municipal Stadium at a time and date to be determined. Balers coach Billy Aviles was happy in how the team performed.

“We definitely kept the pressure on against two quality arms,” he said. “The kids stayed positive in a great playoff baseball game.”

All of the scoring was done in the third inning, as Aidan Shaw had a run-scoring double and Marcus Aranda a sacrifice-fly to account for the rest of the offensive production. Yeager was terrific, and Moises Salazar earned the save with a scoreless seventh inning. Yeager has been used in every role this season—as a starter, reliever and closer—and produced in each situation.

“Him and Moises were throwing gas today,” Aviles said. “Jordan can throw four pitches for strikes, and when you can throw four pitches for strikes, it opens up a lot of options as far as pitching to hitters.”

With the return of Shaw—who missed several weeks due to a concussion—and West Andrade (illness)—to go along with mainstay Marcus Aranda, the Balers have their full complement of power hitters in the lineup.

“Those guys can change the scoreboard with one swing of the bat,” Aviles said. “We’re a different team with Aidan and West back in the lineup. We had quite a few injuries down the stretch, but we’re good now and we have a legit shot at this thing.”

The same can be said of the San Benito softball team. The No. 5 seed Balers (18-10) never trailed in a 8-3 victory at No. 4 Los Gatos (20-7) in Division I action. They advance to a semifinal game against league rival and No. 1 seed Watsonville (22-4) at a date and time to be determined. It was déjà vu for San Benito, which scored two runs in the top of the first inning in the exact same manner in the opening round three days before.

Gia Felice hit a leadoff single and Drew Barragan hit a two-run homer to give the Balers a quick lead. Los Gatos answered with two runs in the second and stayed close until San Benito put up a three-spot in the critical fifth inning. Julia Woeste singled and scored on an Ariel Mendez double to put the team ahead for good, 4-3.

Freshman Gia Perez—who came on as a pinch hitter—followed with a home run to make it 6-3. Amber Rodriguez hit the team’s third round-tripper of the game with a two-run blast in the seventh, which scored Drew Barragan, who had led off the inning with a line-drive double. Barragan allowed two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, and Woeste tossed 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

The hot-hitting Rodriguez had a run-scoring groundout in the third and finished with a game-high three RBIs. Dominique Monteon had a game-high three hits, while Felice, Barragan and Mendez added two hits each. Felice, a speedy freshman, has been a difference-maker at the leadoff spot.

“Gia reminds me a bit of (former Balers standout) Brit Rossi,” Balers coach Andrew Barragan said. “She’s a scrappy player and has played a great center field for us. She’s got a quick first step and is a gamer.”

As is the entire team. If San Benito wins two more games and the program’s 10th CCS playoff championship, it will point to a tough 5-4, 11-inning loss to Notre Dame-Salinas on May 7 as the turning point. The Balers actually had a 3-1 lead in the seventh, but were unable to hold on for the victory. However, Barragan said the loss motivated the players, knowing they could play with the best.

“After that game we knew we had to go and make a statement, and we did (by beating Gilroy 9-1),” Barragan said. “This is the first time all season where we’ve had our full (complement) of players, so we’ve been waiting for this. The girls are seeing the ball well and hitting tremendously, and they’re battling.”

San Benito split two games with Watsonville, winning 1-0 on March 29 before the Wildcatz exacted payback with a 3-0 victory on May 1. Andrew Barragan knows as long as the strike zone remains true, his hitters will break out at some point even against the best pitchers.

“They’re really locked in, and it’s good to see,” he said.

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