With a two-game sweep of previously co-leader Oak Grove two weeks ago, the Sobrato High baseball team catapulted itself into the driver’s seat to win the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division championship and with that an automatic berth into the Central Coast Section playoffs. In the same week the Bulldogs swept Oak Grove, Silver Creek defeated the other previous co-leader, Piedmont Hills.
Entering this week’s play, Sobrato sat atop the division standings at 9-1, with Piedmont Hills and Oak Grove both a game back at 8-2. The top two finishers in the Santa Teresa Division earn automatic bids into the postseason, and in all likelihood that is the road Sobrato must take to extend its season. That’s because it is highly unlikely the Bulldogs will have enough power points to get into the playoff field should they have to compete with other teams for an at-large bid.
“We just have to continue to play the way we’ve been playing,” Bulldogs coach Mitch Martinez said. “If we do, we’re in good shape for the playoffs. Our defense has been good and our pitching has been successful. We always play small ball, but we do get the big hits when we need them.”
Especially against Oak Grove, as William Conn, Shane Callison and Justin Rashid combined for six of the team’s eight hits in a 3-2 win over the Eagles on April 16. Joshua Balderas pitched a complete game, allowing just five hits while walking five in a 102-pitch performance. Three days later, Sobrato pulled away for a 4-0 win behind the pitching of Rashid, who was masterful in a three-hit shutout.
Rashid also helped his own cause with two hits and a RBI, while Cooper Callison and Shane Callison both went 3 for 4 with two runs scored. Sobrato has been boosted by the play of Shane Callison, a freshman who was brought up from the junior varsity team in early April. Shane has made an immediate impact in the lineup and could be a factor on the bump as well.
“Shane has been a great help, a hitting machine,” Conn said. “He gets on base and we do our best to get him in.”
Said Martinez: “I’ve coached Shane since he was 6 years old, so I knew what he was capable of. He came up as a right fielder, but he’s a utility guy who can play a couple of positions. I also see him possibly pitching since he was the No. 1 or 2 for the JV.”
The Bulldogs have talented young players who will continue to develop, with Conn being a prime example. As a freshman last season, Conn had no confidence in his swing. However, Conn worked with one of his personal coaches—Gilroy High co-coach Dennis Castro—who helped Conn overhaul his swing to make it more compact. The hard work and change have paid off as Conn has had some productive games, including a game in which he was a home run short of the cycle, a 12-2 win over Prospect on April 23.
“Before I had my arms out so I couldn’t hit anything inside,” Conn said. “But after working on my swing change I’m able to hit inside-outside and now it’s mostly mental with sequences and all that. It’s made a huge difference.”
The Bulldogs are seemingly peaking at the perfect time. They’ve had their fair share of close losses, with one-run defeats to Live Oak being the most glaring. But the 3-2 win over Oak Grove showed they have the ability to deliver the clutch hit and come up big when it matters the most.
“Everybody wants to get the hit and we’re all hungry to win,” Conn said. “We have confidence and that is helping us along with our chemistry. Chemistry is everything, and we’ve really bonded recently and it’s helped us.”
With no superstars, Sobrato truly relies on everyone in the lineup to do their job. Nick Kettner, Camden Redfield, Will Nikitas, Michael Barone and Alex Percini have all made an impact, with Percini pitching four innings of shutout relief against Prospect.