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May 31, 2023

White-hot Hollister High baseball team sweeps Palma, now 9-0

Hollister High junior Wyatt Barton entered this week’s action with a 5-0 record, the latest a complete-game outing in a 9-3 win over Palma on March 24, capping a two-game sweep of their chief rivals for the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division championship. 

“It felt amazing,” the 6-foot-3, 185-pound right-hander said. “Everything was working with my mechanics and all of my pitches. Everything felt really smooth.”

A three-year varsity standout, Barton has upped his level of play even after a stellar 2022 season that saw him earn Gabilan Division first team honors. The win over Palma was critical in that the league title race almost always comes down between the two rival schools, and now Hollister has a major leg up to repeat as Gabilan champions. 

The victory came a day after Barton’s fellow starter Trent Roach struck out 11 over six dominant innings in a 4-2 win. The two along with starter/reliever Brandon Flores are a big reason why this could be the year in which Hollister finally breaks through to win its first Central Coast Section playoff championship. 

For a team to win a baseball Division I or II title, it needs to have two to three ace-caliber pitchers. If the Balers end up winning a section title, there’s no doubt it will have rode the arms of Barton, Roach and Flores to the promised land. 

Hollister is on a roll, improving to 9-0 overall and 6-0 in league after a 15-4 win over Pacific Grove on March 27. In the second Palma game, Matt Pena went 4-for-4 and Dominic Esparza delivered a key pinch-hit, two-out double. Considering the opponent, Barton’s performance against Palma was his best outing of the season.

But in terms of overwhelming the competition, Barton’s 10-strikeout, five-inning effort against St. Francis of Watsonville on March 8 was pure dominance. 

“As I went through the second time in the batting order, I just knew they couldn’t hit my fastball,” Barton said. “So I just painted the outside corner and threw as hard as I could. It’s always a nice thing having that X factor that when I want to [blow pitches by hitters], I can.”

Barton has multiple ways to attack hitters, often finishing off hitters with a fastball or slurve. He likes to throw a fastball to set up his slider or a curveball to set up a fastball to change the batters’ eye level so they can’t get in rhythm or a beat on any one pitch. 

Barton is continually filling out his 6-3 frame, crediting the work he’s putting in at KPI in Morgan Hill for his increased physicality. The extra year of maturity, both physically and mentally, has given Barton added confidence coming off a strong 2022 season. 

“This year I definitely have the experience because now I know how hitters at the varsity level are going to react,” he said. “And training at KPI has built my body up to be ready for my junior year.”

Barton’s dad, Kevin, introduced him to the game at an early age. Wyatt remembers hitting tennis balls with a plastic bat to improve his hand-eye coordination starting at 3 or 4 years old. 

“Everything I learned was from him,” Barton said. “I took my dad’s lessons on and then my coaches took it from there.”

Barton grew up with many of his teammates playing either against or for the same Hollister Little League teams. Once he advanced beyond that level to Babe Ruth, Barton felt right at home. A pitcher and outfielder in Little League and Babe Ruth, Barton was known for being able to track down balls hit to the outfield that would normally drop for extra bases. 

“As I developed, going to a full-size field I felt like was a better change for me,” he said. “Pitching-wise, my arm kept up with the field.”

Breyon Chavez records the out at second base during the Haybalers’ 9-3 win over Palma last Friday. Photo by J. Natividad.
Adrian Ruiz doffs his helmet after hitting a grand slam against Palma last Friday. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected].

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