CERES — The Ceres High Bulldogs encourage each other with the following letters, “W-T-W.”
Don’t bother asking for more information. If they mistakenly tell you, they might have to kill you.
“I can’t say what that means,” senior shortstop Alan Marquez said. “Confidential.”
Coach John Bussard smiled when he was asked about W-T-W, but little more.
“It means something. It means a lot to them,” he said. “They say it to each other constantly.”
This much is known: The Bulldogs aren’t giving away any secrets, and why mess with cracking the code? Ceres dominated its own Art McRae Tournament, ending it Thursday with an 11-1 five-inning win over Orestimba.
The Bulldogs’ school-record 21st victory amounted to more of the same from a team (21-3) that raises the volume with its bats. Marquez, sitting on a bases-loaded, 3-2 fastball from Orestimba reliever Adrian Perez, chased home all three with a ringing triple to left-center.
That made it 9-1 in the fourth and, an inning later, Ceres celebrated. John Bussard, invested in the process especially with his twin sons Brad and Brent in the lineup, believes this is the most special team he’s had in his 26 years of varsity coaching.
“It’s the first team I’ve had in a while that doesn’t care about stats,” he said. “I’ve never seen a team more committed to one another.”
Ceres received more good news Thursday when an MRI revealed no more than minor tendinitis in the arm of Brad Bussard, one of the team’s top pitchers along with Marquez. Brad, back on the field this week for the first time (he served as the designated hitter earlier), has not pitched in a few weeks.
The Bulldogs no doubt are gearing toward their two-game showdown against Central Catholic in two weeks. Both teams are unbeaten in the Western Athletic Conference, and Ceres’ only two losses in its last 22 WAC games came against the Raiders.
“We’re trying to stay focused,” said Marquez, who drove in four runs with his two hits. “Just play our game and don’t let distractions get us.”
Both teams, wrapping up a long week, used their No. 3 pitchers – Evan Duran of Ceres and Noah Winters of Orestimba. Duran yielded only first-inning singles by Tanner Pruett and sophomore Austin Martins but doused the threat with his biting curve.
Marquez, going after an outside pitch, smacked an RBI double that fell barely fair down the right-field line for Ceres’ first run. Soon, the Bulldogs were rolling with their eight-hit attack featuring the triples by Marquez and Brandon Machado.
Orestimba’s Pruett, the team’s standout lefty, had three innings left of pitching eligibility. Coach Matthew Candelario let the game dictate whether or not he would send him to the mound. Eventually, he kept Pruett at first base.
“If we were in it halfway through, we might have done it,” Candelario said.
The Warriors (13-4), like Ceres, look ahead. They’re tied with Ripon and Hughson for first place in the Trans-Valley League with key games next week.
“Winning three games this week was a big goal for us. Anything else was a bonus,” Candelario said. “Ceres deserves every accolade. That’s a good team.”
The Bulldogs probably will let on later about W-T-W. For now, their lips are sealed.