Baseball varsity team regroups after losing head coach to TCAL league

Eric Evans, Staff Writer

Bear Creek varsity baseball is coming off an impressive year — last year they won their league and lost to the eventual section champions, Del Campo High School. Heading into the offseason, the team had high expectations and a goal of becoming section champions. However, plans changed when news spread that head varsity coach Peter Pijl would be leaving Bear Creek to coach at Lincoln High School in order to play in T-CAL, a more competitive league than Bear Creek’s current league, the SJAA.

“This definitely shocked our entire team and was hard to believe at first because this decision came out of nowhere,” varsity baseball player Gabe Kahler, a junior, said.

Pijl’s departure left the players with many questions regarding their upcoming season. About a month after Pijl left, Athletic Director Jason Johnson hired former St. Mary’s JV coach, Kevin Standart, to take over as the new varsity head coach. Players say Standart has brought a new culture to the baseball team, as evidenced by the team’s strong start this season.

Led by seniors Robert Blachly and Wilbur Berrios, Bear Creek is currently 17-2 with key wins over Tracy and Manteca high schools. The Bruins are undefeated in league and have suffered two losses: one from Lodi High in a 9-8 game that went into extra innings, and a 6-3 loss to Manteca.

Blachly is currently batting over 400, averaging at least one hit a game, while junior Zolin Duron leads the team in extra base hits. On the defensive side, Berrios has been pitching well, topping out at 89 mph with opponents averaging under two runs per game on him. Senior pitcher Casey Williams leads the team in wins with five.

“We expect to win league every year, and our goal is to become the section champions this year,” varsity baseball player and first
baseman Josh Manzo, a junior, said.

Bear Creek has four league champions total — three earned in the last three years — but has never won a section championship.

“We’re all focused on winning the section title,” Berrios said. “My goal since playing on varsity has been to win sections, and I feel with the team and coaching we have right now, this is going to be our year.”

Bear Creek’s last regular season game is scheduled on May 8 at James Enochs High School in Modesto. Section playoffs will begin mid May, where Bear
Creek hopes to seal the section championship.

“It’s been exciting watching this team compete every day, and I’m truly grateful for the opportunity I have to coach these young men,” Standart said. “This team is more than just a group of baseball players — it’s a family.”

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