Hughson rolls to 10-0 baseball playoff win, faces No. 1 seed Sutter in next round
Gavin Stone and J.C. Lupercio have been among the offensive standouts all season for the Hughson High baseball team.
Stone, a senior, is a three-year varsity starter who plays catcher and hits third in the lineup. He leads the Huskies with a .507 batting average, his 31 runs batted in are second only to Robert McDaniel (34) and his 38 hits trail only Lupercio (39).
Lupercio, a sophomore centerfielder, is the prototypical leadoff hitter who sprays the ball all over the field. He’s batting .500 this season and leads the team in runs scored (40) and stolen bases (16).
Stone and Lupercio were at their best Wednesday in Hughson’s 10-0 rout of Ben Holt Academy of Stockton in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs. Stone knocked in four runs with three hits – including a bases-loaded double – while Lupercio added three more hits and scored twice in a game called after six innings by the mercy rule
Hughson Coach Charley Garza said what Stone and Lupercio did Wednesday is what they’ve been doing all season.
“Gavin has been a clutch hitter all year long,” Garza said. “If he’s up with guys on, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll knock them in. And J.C. is fast, he can bunt, hit the other way. He’s an all-around talent.”
Max Mankins chipped in with two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored for the Huskies. Starting pitcher Caleb Wilson threw a complete game, scattering five hits and striking out seven.
The competition will be much stiffer in the next round for Hughson (22-4), which is seeded fourth in the eight-team bracket. Next up will be No. 1 seed Sutter (20-5-1), which crushed Delta Charter 21-2 on Wednesday.
The second round is a best-of-three series that opens Monday in Sutter. Game 2 will be Wednesday in Hughson and Game 3, if necessary, would be Thursday in Sutter.
“They’re a great team with very good pitching,” said Garza of Sutter, which tied Colfax for the Pioneer Valley League title. “They did what they were probably supposed to do to that team (Delta Charter). … They’re basically the same team that upset Hilmar last year in the first round of the playoffs when Hilmar had the pitcher of the year in our league.”
The prospect of three games in four days puts a premium on pitching, something that has been a strength of this year’s Hughson team. Garza said sophomore Robert McDaniel (4-1, 2.18 ERA) will start on the mound Monday, followed by Wilson (7-3, 1.21) on Wednesday. If they get to a Game 3, the Huskies have the luxury of choosing between Mankins (5-0, 1.41) or Paul Wagner (3-0, 2.58), either of whom will be available in relief in the first two games if needed.
“We feel real confident in all those guys,” Garza said. “We’re pretty deep in starting pitching.”
As they did last season – when they finished second in the Section tournament – the Huskies will take two vans rather than a bus when they go on the road.
“The kids seemed to enjoy that experience,” Garza said. “We’ll stop and have lunch on the way. These kids really have a great time together.”