Entering the 2018 season, many had questions about where the Oakdale High School varsity baseball team was headed and how far they would get. With many of their premier players from the 2017 season graduated and former head coach Nate Gregory leaving for Modesto Junior College, it was a mystery that only time would tell how the new-look varsity Mustangs would fare in the season. Fast forward to present day, and the team looked like it did not miss a beat. Winning three of their final four games, Oakdale captured the Valley Oak League championship following a sweep of Kimball.
“This team put in a lot of hard work since the beginning of the year and today is truly rewarding,” said senior first baseman Dane Gibson.
With the Valley Oak League crown on the line, Oakdale (16-10, 11-3) entered the final series of the regular season against fourth place Kimball (15-2, 8-6). Oakdale won the first game 6-3 on the road on Monday, May 7. With two RBI each from Alex Daoud and Hayden Knittel this set the tone for the Mustangs offensively. On the mound for Oakdale was Marcus Juarez. He went four innings, giving up just two hits and Dylan Wright pitched three innings of relief, giving up six hits.
Wednesday evening was Senior Day 2018 where the team honored Hunter Ginger, Dylan Wright, Shawn Merriam, Dane Gibson, Julian Velasquez and Corey Hinojosa before the game. Once the game began it was down to business.
Oakdale jumped out to a 3-1 lead behind a Max Moore single that scored Daoud with one out. Jacob Solorio brought home Moore with an RBI double on the next play. With two outs, Ginger ripped an RBI double to make it 3-1. The Mustangs tacked on a run in the bottom of the second as Daoud stole third base and quickly sprinted home after an overthrow attempt at third sailed into left field. In the fourth inning Oakdale extended their lead to 6-1 as Solorio blasted a solo home run to right center. Kimball tagged on three runs in the sixth to bring it within 6-4 but the Mustangs closed it out.
“This was our expectation all season long, set by us. We knew we could be Valley Oak League champions, it was just going out there and getting the job done,” said catcher Max Moore.
He had two hits in the game, but did most of his work behind the dish. Moore was involved in a spectacular play in the fourth inning as center fielder Corey Hinojosa scrambled to get a ball in the outfield to throw it to second baseman Jake Elting, who then threw it into Moore in time to put down the tag and stop the Jaguar runner from scoring from first base.
Oakdale finished the season on a tough note, dropping five straight including a pair to Kimball to wrap up the year. This past week the JV boys lost 14-4 and 11-3 to the Jaguars. In the road loss on Monday, May 7, Justin Thompson had two RBI and Brett Maddock had a team high two hits. Diego Valdez started the game and pitched three-and-a-third innings and struck out two batters. Jaiden Williams came in relief and struck out three batters. In the home loss on Wednesday, May 9 Oakdale led 3-0 but gave up multiple runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
The young Mustangs baseball program finished their year with a 14-5 overall record, going 5-4 in Valley Oak League action. The team’s last game of the season was played at home against Sierra on Friday, May 4.