ATWATER — With the regular season winding down, the Merced High baseball team wants to build up some momentum heading into the playoffs. The Bears got the ball rolling on Wednesday with a 9-1 win over Buhach Colony.
Merced (15-9 overall, 10-3 Central California Conference) did a little bit of everything against the Thunder, racking up 11 hits and Jordan Kemps pitching a complete game.
“I told our guys today is a playoff game for us,” said Bears coach Justin Parle. “We need to start having that mentality that it’s do or die for us. There’s no reason to wait for the playoffs to start. We’re starting now.”
The Bears had good at-bats up and down the lineup against Buhach Colony right-hander Kaden Verdin.
Merced opened up a 5-1 lead with a three-run fourth inning. Craig Bettis, Josh May and Armando Flores hit three consecutive run-scoring singles with two outs in the frame.
Tanner McBurney highlighted a three-run seventh inning with a two-run double.
Bettis, May, Flores and Isidro Mendoza all had two hits for the Bears. May and Flores each drove in a pair of runs.
Meanwhile, Kemps settled in after giving up a run on three hits in the first to blank the Thunder (4-19, 2-11) the rest of the way. Kemps struck out five and walked only one. He surrendered only three hits in the final six innings.
“We hadn’t been playing to our full potential,” Kemps said. “Today, I felt we took a very big step in that direction. We hit the ball very well and our defense was very solid.”
Merced already has second place locked up in the CCC and will open the playoffs with a home game. The Bears will close conference play with night home games against Pitman on Friday and Golden Valley on Wednesday. Both games will be at 7.
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.