As the 45th annual Dick Windemuth Easter Baseball Tournament gets under way this morning with two seven-team pools competing at Modesto and Enochs high schools, there’s not a hotter team in town than the Beyer Patriots.
Oh sure, Gregori and Enochs, tied atop the Modesto Metro Conference standings, have better records than Beyer. And, yes, perennial powerhouse Central Catholic is once again flying high.
But the Pats have won five in a row, shutting out the opposition in each of those contests – including a 15-0, no-hit victory by staff ace Micah Hall against Modesto last Thursday.
“Pitching and defense is our game,” said Beyer coach Dom Duran, whose team would earn the MMC’s third and final playoff berth if the season ended today. “Our offense is just now beginning to show its teeth. With that combination, I don’t see how we can lose this tournament.”
The Patriots were swept by Gregori and split with Enochs earlier this season. All four games were decided by one run. In a 1-0 loss to the Eagles on March 27 – the last of those encounters – Beyer left 10 runners in scoring position.
“We loaded the bases with no outs twice in that game, and couldn’t score,” said Duran. “I wish we could play Enochs and Gregori now. It was just the luck of the draw that we got them at the beginning of the season, but we’re absolutely hot right now.”
Case in point: Hall and senior Mark Ackerman.
Hall, a junior right-hander, needed just over 60 pitches to no-hit the Panthers. He struck out seven, walked none (an error cost him the perfect game) and threw just 13 pitches out of the strike zone.
Two days earlier, Ackerman, also a right-hander, struck out nine, walked one, and limited the Panthers to two hits in a 6-0 Patriots victory.
“They’re a couple of horses,” said Duran of his one-two punch. “They take care of their arms and they’re very self-sufficient. I’ve only made a couple of trips to the mound this entire year.”
He certainly didn’t need to leave the bench last Thursday.
“When I was in the bullpen I felt average, at best,” said Hall, who throws a fastball in the low to mid 80s, a curveball and a change-up. “But once I got out to the mound, everything was working.”
Hall said he clued in to what was happening around the fourth inning.
“I wasn’t necessarily nervous,” said Hall. “I knew if I continued to locate, it was a high possibility. But I didn’t want to try to do too much. If you do, mistakes start happening.”
With two outs in the fifth and Beyer holding a double-digit lead that would trigger the “mercy rule,” Hall was one out away.
After getting ahead 0-2 with fastballs, he missed twice with fastballs away. He came back with a change-up that started thigh-high, but dipped to knee level for strike three.
That set off a celebration near the mound.
“Half the team came out and the other half didn’t know if we should be celebrating,” said Hall. “It was pretty exciting.”
Now it’s on to the Windemuth, where the Patriots are off day today before opening Tuesday with a 4:30 p.m. game against Ripon at Enochs High. That’s comes before a grueling Wednesday slate – also at Enochs – that features a 12:45 p.m. game against Pitman, followed by a scintillating matchup against Central Catholic at 3:30.
Then, more important, will be the final four games of the MMC slate, beginning on April 29.
So, can the Patriots keep playing like this through the remainder of the season?
“Absolutely,” said Hall.