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Tournament Terrific Riverbank Baseball Performs Well In Hilmar
After struggling to just one win during a gauntlet of eight extremely tough games to start this season's Trans-Valley League campaign, Riverbank High varsity baseball coach Ismael Mercado was curious how his team would measure up against tough programs when they took on four games in four days during the Hilmar Tournament this past week.

Today, Mercado couldn't be much happier.

The Bruins exploded for big performances in all four contests, ultimately landing a 17-15 scoring advantage over their opponents for a 2-2 stanza across the tourney's four days.

The program opened with a 5-3 loss to Washington of Fremont on April 26, but ousted Southern League power, Le Grand in a 2-1 thriller a day later.

A 7-3 loss to Division IV Patterson gave Riverbank a shot at an Orestimba team that had beaten them twice this season, but the Bruin bats got hot in a 9-2 finish to close the tournament with an even run.

"I believe this whole tournament, especially with four straight games, gave us a little test of our competitiveness at the end of the season," coach Mercado said on Sunday. "They responded well and I felt we were very competitive in all four of our games.

"We had moments where we could have eliminated some mistakes, but overall I am very satisfied with the way kids showed no signs of letting up. We are still improving and climbing that ladder."

Noel Sanchez pitched six strong innings in the loss to Washington, and allowed just two earned runs. Jac Lewis, Bruce Gong and Anthony Gonzales all landed RBIs to keep Riverbank in the game.

Riverbank shocked perennial Southern League leader, Le Grand, in game No. 2 after a thrilling performance from Antonio Perez. Perez tossed seven sharp innings with 12 strikeouts and only three hits allowed during the one-run win.

He faced pressure situations with runners on base in every inning, but maintained his composure to close the innings. In the fourth, he allowed the leadoff batter to reach third, but struck out the side to avoid danger.

"That was an unbelievable performance," coach Mercado said. "I always told Antonio that he was capable of a game like that, and he showed everybody that he can do it."

Miguel Hernandez plated Kevin Compton to plate the game-winning run in the sixth inning. He also batted 2 for 3 in the game, scored the team's other run and stole a base.

Tyler Fipps pitched a strong game against Patterson, but costly miscues allowed Tiger runners to reach home plate.

A day later, the Bruin bats came alive in a dominating win over the same TVL program (Orestimba) that remains in the league playoff hunt and ousted Riverbank with 4-3, 3-1 victories in early April.

Hernandez (double) and Perez (two doubles) each went 3 for 4 with huge knocks at the plate. Fipps (double, two RBIs), Sanchez (2 for 3) and Lewis (RBI single) also swung a hot bat.

Hernandez got the start and tossed seven tough innings with three strikeouts and five hits allowed.

The Bruins were at Ripon on Tuesday, and host the Indians on Thursday.