San Benito High second baseman Andrew Sotelo avoids the sliding baserunner as he turns a double play against Christopher in a April 16 game. 

The San Benito High baseball team finds itself in a tussle in its attempt to repeat as Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division champions.
After a stunning sweep at the hands of Christopher last week followed by a loss to Monte Vista Christian, the Haybalers trail first-place Salinas by one game entering Thursday’s action. No one envisioned the team suffering back-to-back losses to Christopher; after all, San Benito rarely loses to a team twice in the same season.
However, San Benito uncharacteristically made a number of mental and physical errors that led to its undoing.
“Every game counts,” Aviles said after the team’s first loss to the Cougars on April 16. “This loss lets Salinas keep pace with us, and we’re letting other teams hang around. I didn’t sense before the game the guys were not up for this game, but they just kept on making mistakes over and over again. On some of the plays, I’m wondering, ‘What are you doing?’ We’re coaches, and we can’t suit up for them.”
Aviles said Kelly, Andrew Sotelo and Drew Williams all have been playing well lately, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Balers from falling into a first-place tie after they went wire-to-wire last season and opened up a nice two-game cushion two weeks into this year’s league season.
The proud San Benito baseball program usually has enough talent to the point where it doesn’t rebuild so much as reload. Young players make an impact every year, and one of this year’s emerging standouts is Williams, a sophomore shortstop. In the first loss to Christopher, Williams showed all of his defensive skills on a play in the top of the fifth inning.
Moving to his right, Williams backhanded a grounder deep in the hole and made the throw to first base to get the out, a play you’ve seen from infielders in the majors do time and again that get featured as highlight-reel material.
Even though it appeared as if the Cougars’ Richie Rios beat the throw, Williams was going to take it.
“I need to strengthen my arm from the backhand side,” Williams said. “That was a tough play, and I’ve got to keep working to get better.”
Williams, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, knows improvement comes from one thing: hard work. In terms of staying level-headed and respecting the game, those are things that have been ingrained in his head growing up in Hollister, and he takes a professional approach to the game, just like many of his teammates.
Williams has used that mindset to accelerate his baseball career. In the off-season, Williams played for Trosky Baseball and California Club Baseball out of Palo Alto, and he said the biggest highlight was CCB taking third-place out of 32 teams in a power-packed national tournament featuring some of the best travel ball teams on the West Coast.
Dozens of pro scouts and college coaches are in attendance for these national showcase events, but Williams never blinks an eye.
“I’ve never once thought about that,” he said. “I just focus on what I can do and control the things I can control.”
In the Balers’ 5-4 win over Central Coast Section power Valley Christian of San Jose on April 11, Williams stroked a run-scoring single that tied the game at 2-2. San Benito never trailed again, earning a critical win over the West Catholic League school.
“That was probably the highlight of my season so far,” he said.
Williams started his freshman year on the freshmen team before being moved up to the varsity squad halfway through the season. Even though Williams didn’t receive much playing time, the experience helped prepare him to become a starter in just his second year of high school—at a powerhouse program like San Benito, no less.
“Getting called up to the varsity last year was big because the game is so much faster up here,” he said.
Williams said his dad, T.J., has been instrumental in his development.
“He’s always had a passion for the game,” Williams said. “I’ve been playing the game since I could walk, and he was my coach until I was 12 years old. He’s always been my role model.”
Speaking of teams or players he looks up to, Williams admired former Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki, who was a magician with the bat and one of the fastest players in Major League Baseball during his prime.
Williams also likes Robinson Cano, the Mariners’ second baseman. In fact, Williams loves all things Seattle: the Mariners, and ahem, the Seahawks.
“I do not like the Niners,” he said. “I know most of the guys around here, the Niners are their team. But I’ve always liked Seattle.”
Williams takes pride in his defense, and he’s never satisfied. Even if Williams has several nice games in a row playing solid defense, he still looks for ways to improve.
“Defense is very important for me,” he said. “I worked on that a lot in the off-season along with hitting to the opposite field.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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