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Bruins Fall Just Short Of Playoffs, Stacked For 2013
If the world ends in 2012, it will be a crying shame, because Riverbank High's varsity baseball team is loaded for a terrific 2013.

The Bruins (8-13 overall, 5-7 Trans Valley League) were downed in back-to-back games to Hughson on May 8 and 10 to see effective elimination from the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoff race. Had Riverbank won both games, they would have forced a tie for third with Hilmar, who ultimately won a tiebreaker with Hughson.

"Playing for something at the end was exciting for the kids, but it didn't end the way we panned out after getting swept by Hughson," Riverbank coach Ismael Mercado said. "But for the most part we were in it and made it interesting."

While the Bruins may be licking their wounds from a disappointing finish to conference play, they certainly can't ignore potential for big time accolades next year.

Riverbank graduates only centerfielder Bruce Gong from the 2012 starting lineup, leaving both aces and a full barricade of hitters to tackle conference foes in 2013.

Escalon (23-1, 12-0) and Hilmar (13-7, 7-5) graduate three of their top four players while Ripon (10-7, 8-4) says goodbye to three strong starters and Hughson (11-11, 7-5) will suffer when two of their top three pitchers leave the team to graduation.

The roster hits should open the door for Riverbank to build upon a sharp 2012 season and the momentum created by standout pitchers Antonio Perez (junior) and Noel Sanchez (sophomore).

"We are very excited and the kids know we have a lot of potential next year," Mercado said. "The TVL is a tough league and it won't be an easy thing by any means, but we certainly have the bodies to make a run at it."

Perez earned Riverbank's team award as Offensive Player of the Year after a season where he compiled a team high .393 average at the plate and also led the team in doubles, hits, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.

Chad Oliver, who pitched in relief and played third base, was given the All-Bruin award.

The team also returns speedy leadoff sophomore Tristin Rodgers, who hit 2-3 during a 6-2 home loss to Hughson on May 8 (Perez was 2 for 4 in the same game). The Bruins went on to slip 14-1 to Hughson two days later after losing a 1-0 first inning lead and allowing a nine-run disaster in the fourth inning.

Mercado said Riverbank picks up the intensity this offseason with summer play that includes a June 1 home game with Ripon and entry in a 20-team tournament later in the summer.

"Our coaching staff is very anxious to get the summer going and get ready for next year," Mercado said. "It's going to be very competitive."