High School Sports

Modesto Christian shortstop Washington made right choice returning to diamond

Mason Washington gave up baseball the summer before he entered high school.

“I kind of got tired of it and just wanted to focus on basketball,” said Mason, a 2014 graduate of Modesto Christian.

It wasn’t a bad decision. After all, Washington was a four-year varsity member of one of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s most powerful teams and helped the Crusaders to 106 victories and three section banners.

Still, one has to wonder what kind of baseball player he would have been because in his first year back on the diamond since 2010, Washington was a first-team selection on Cal-Hi Sports’ all-state small-schools team.

“I didn’t even know it was coming out; I just saw it on Twitter,” said Washington, who will play baseball, not basketball, next season at San Joaquin Delta College. “But I was surprised because I haven’t played baseball in four years.”

Cal-Hi released its all-state squad Monday, with 25 Stanislaus District athletes gaining recognition.

Washington hit .554 (the third-highest total in the section), stole 28 bases (fourth in the section) in 28 attempts and made just two errors at shortstop.

“It didn’t really hit me until after the season,” said Washington, who at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds has a frame suited for baseball. “During the season, I just focused on trying to get back into the game, basically. When I saw that .500 batting average, it kind of surprised me.

“And that’s another thing: I felt like if I could do this good without really working on it full time, it really excites me to see what more may come.”

Washington played left field in last month’s Modesto Sunrise Rotary Baseball Classic and said it doesn’t matter if he plays infield or outfield for the Mustangs. Either way, he feels comfortable with his decision.

“I missed the game,” Washington said. “I got back out there and it felt like I never left.”

Washington wasn’t the only District athlete to garner first-team status.

Manteca pitchers Jake Corn and Lucas Vaughn (the section leader with 12 wins), who each played a key role in helping the Buffaloes to their first section championship, were medium-schools first-team picks. They were joined by Oakdale’s Bryce Dyrda, who made the squad as a multi-purpose player. Joining Washington on the small-schools first team was Linden infielder Justin Giovanni.

Turlock’s Brett Cumberland, The Bee’s Player of the Year, was a third-team pick for Cal-Hi’s elite all-state team, while Pitman junior Coleton Horner (26-game hitting streak) was a second-team selection for the all-underclass squad.

On the softball side, Allie Walljasper, The Bee’s two-time Player of the Year, was named to the elite second team and the medium-schools first team. She was joined on the first team by Oakdale catcher Lauren Sanders (.495), Pacheco outfielder Ariana Barton (.590) and East Union junior outfielder Cherish Burks (.533, 26 for 26 in steals), who was also named second-team all-underclass.

Hughson junior infielder MacKenzie Babbitt (.527) was named to the small-schools first team, as was Delhi junior Alyssa Stockton (.403, 241 strikeouts in 1382/3 innings pitched) and Linden’s Lauren Watanabe (20-5, 2.18 ERA), who made the squad as multi-purpose players.

Merced sophomore Madilyn Nickles (.417 average, 13-0, 1.52 ERA), the two-time Central California Conference MVP, was a second-team all-underclass selection.