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Baseball Bruins Hoping For Improvement In League Play
A botched throw to first left Riverbank High senior Shane Gaynor with an aggressive opportunity to score, and he was quick to capitalize on Friday.

The speedy leadoff hitter sprinted home and slid into Escalon catcher, Trey Balber, just before the throw arrived. The play stirred up a cloud of dust before the home umpire could sort through the rubble and award the Bruins a first-inning score.

But while Riverbank's first hitter managed to cross the plate, the teams' remaining at-bats would go by quietly, Escalon skating to a 21-1 victory in Bruin territory.

The game was a good example of Riverbank's early season woes with Trans-Valley League play in full swing. The Bruins have shown flashes of offensive brilliance, but defensive struggles have spelled trouble from the get-go.

Riverbank is 0-for-8 on the season with a 31 runs scored to 118 runs allowed scoring disadvantage, opposing hitters rolling up 10 or more scores in each of their last six games.

"We have gotten off to a rough start," Riverbank coach Ismael Mercado said. "Our pitching and defense needs to improve in order to give ourselves a chance."

The Bruins still have a good shot at TVL wins with opposing teams not named Escalon totaling a combined record of 7-18 so far this season.

But preseason losses don't determine the league's seeds (three in 2010) into the Division V playoffs, meaning one TVL team with a current winning percentage of .250 or worse will see extra contests this year.

Escalon (5-1, 58 runs scored) will likely repeat a 2009 TVL championship, and made that fact evident with nine, six and four-run innings to open their five-frame victory over the Bruins on Friday. The team teed off on Bruin starter Ryan Bowden and saw a pair of home runs from Derrick DeFreitas.

Gaynor smashed a base hit up the middle and scored in the opening inning, but the Bruins could only muster one more hit in the contest against Escalon ace, Justin Martinez. The Cougars belted 19 hits off Bruin pitchers and capitalized on five Riverbank errors.

"If we can improve our pitching and defense I don't see why we can't compete," Mercado said.

Riverbank returns all league honorees Bowden, Blake Costalupes and Miguel Hernandez, with a hard-hitting first-year senior leadoff in Gaynor. The team has the talent to produce runs, and will get their next shot at Modesto Christian today, Wednesday, March 24 at 4 p.m.