A trio of Los Banos High School students will take part in the Merced County All-Star Baseball Game on June 14, with senior Corbin Lilledahl and juniors Chris Corral and Brevin Welch representing the North team.
After the game is played at Merced College, the coaches will choose a team to face the Stanislaus County all-star team. Where many all-star games are only for seniors, this one also allows juniors, opening the door for Corral and Welch.
“I like being an underclassman,” Corral said. “Him and I, we’ve always been the younger kids. We’re the late September babies, we’re always the youngest out there playing against kids that are 18 years old and we’re getting hits off of them, and they’re just like, ‘Oh man, these kids are juniors.’ We should be sophomores, and yeah, we can play. So it’s pretty cool playing against older people.”
Corral spent most of the season at third base for the Tigers, but switched to shortstop late in the season when Christian Garnica went out because of an appendectomy. Garnica was also the team’s top starting pitcher, which meant Welch saw even more starts.
“Playing the field has always been my number one option, but coming in to pitch and throw strikes, I’ve been able to do that since I was young,” Welch said. “So getting the chance to come out here and control the game, I like that feeling and I like that tempo, knowing that the pace of the game goes by me. I enjoyed being able to be out there.”
Corral, Welch and center fielder Lilledahl, were key players in the Tigers’ first playoff appearance since 2011. Los Banos went 15-9 and beat Central Valley twice in the last week to secure the third-place spot in the Western Athletic Conference. Los Banos lost 10-1 to Oakdale in the first round of the playoffs.
“I got pulled up my sophomore year, and we didn’t have that great of a year,” Welch said. “It kind of finished average, so getting back up to playoffs, it felt really good.”
The North team is made up of players from Atwater, Buhach Colony, Livingston, Los Banos, Pacheco, Hilmar and Gustine high schools. The South draws from Merced, Golden Valley, Le Grand, Dos Palos, Mariposa, Stone Ridge Christian and, starting last year, Sonora high schools.
Dos Palos coach Kevin Jones said the South roster hadn’t been confirmed, but in the past it has been made up of first-team all-league players. Broncos who made the first team of the West Sierra League were Efrain Del Rio, Adam Coronado, Noah Croninger, Zach Zuspan and Daniel Gamino.
The Broncos also went to the playoffs this year, falling in the second round to Taft. Del Rio, who homered in last year’s Merced County game to help the South to a 7-3 victory, finished this year with nine home runs, one short of tying the school record of 10 set by Adam Calvert in 1996 and Leonard Davis in 2002.
While the Los Banos players know exactly what the Dos Palos players can do – Los Banos beat Dos Palos 11-1 on March 18, followed by a 10-9 Dos Palos victory against Los Banos on March 20 – the Tigers are confident.
“I’m hoping to go out there and prove that kids from Los Banos can do big things,” Corral said.