Efrain Del Rio sent a message to the baseball teams of the West Sierra League in Tuesday’s 12-2 Dos Palos victory over Mendota: Challenge him, and he will make you pay.
The Bronco junior launched three home runs in the road victory, bringing his season total to seven. The school record is 10 in a season (Adam Calvert in 1996 and Leonard Davis in 2002), and Dos Palos has five regular-season games remaining plus whatever playoff games come along.
Del Rio hit two of his dingers off of Mendota’s starter and one off of a reliever, in the last three of his five at-bats. He started with a pop-up to the pitcher and a base hit.
“They didn’t pitch around him. They went right at him for some reason or another,” Dos Palos coach Kevin Jones said. “The first was a two-run home run, then two solos. The first one he crushed, second one wind was blowing a little and that might have helped, and the third one was a line drive and hit the yellow part and went over. That one was crushed, too. If it hadn’t been a line drive, it just would have kept going.”
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Del Rio’s hitting has helped Dos Palos to a 5-0 WSL record through the first half of league play, and a 14-6 record overall. Del Rio, whom Jones said is “by far” the best hitter in the league, has a .387 batting average on the season and is hitting .571 in league play.
The Broncos begin the second half of league play against Firebaugh this afternoon.
“A lot of pitchers will challenge him, especially the elite pitchers more than the ones in our league,” Jones said. “Firebaugh’s pretty intelligent, so he probably won’t see anything on Friday.”
Del Rio isn’t the only hitter on the team – left fielder Daniel Gamino is at .529 in league, center fielder Noah Croninger is at .533 and Adam Coronado is at .412. The Broncos also have bevy of arms compared to other teams in the league, and Jones has started a different pitcher in each league game, with No. 2 pitcher Adam Coronado earning the win against Mendota.
“We’ve had quite a few see the mound this year, at least six or seven kids,” Jones said. “Especially come tournament time, you have to be careful with your pitching. When you have that many pitchers, you can do a lot of things. I’ve been spoiled this year.”
Jones said Del Rio has garnered attention from coaches at the next level.
“His name’s out there. There’s people looking at him,” Jones said. “He has a good future in baseball if he decides to go that route.”