Hughson High's Jake Etcheverry and Central Catholic's Patrick Trinkler no doubt enjoyed a comfort zone as teammates.
Though they competed for different schools, they've enjoyed a friendship since they were knee-high to a Louisville Slugger. The baseball gods must have grinned after Etcheverry and Trinkler engineered the East's 7-3 victory Saturday night in the small-schools version of the 20th Stanislaus County All-Star Game.
"I've coached them through Little League, travel ball and all-stars. It was a pretty good feeling to be out here in the last game with those two," said East coach Bob Etcheverry, Jake's father. "It's a good memory. They've been friends since kindergarten."
In the large-schools game, the fourth hit of the game by Johansen's Julian Castaneda -- a single in the eighth -- was the go-ahead run in the West's 11-5 come-from-behind win. Castaneda was named the game's most valuable player.
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Etcheverry, the East center fielder, reversed the momentum of the small-schools game via a defensive gem. He hustled into the left-center gap, dove and snagged a drive off the bat of Denair's Ernie Delgadillo. Had Etcheverry not made the play, the West would have led 3-0 in the third.
"I had a real good read on it," said Etcheverry, who'll chase down more fly balls at Merced College. "Our defense came together."
Trinkler, the game's MVP, singled and doubled, but his sixth-inning walk sustained a four-run rally that broke a 3-3 tie. Two misjudged flies, one resulting in a two-run triple by Marcus Sahagun, changed the game. The East further dominated the late innings by turning two double plays.
"I didn't expect it (being MVP) at all," said Trinkler, who will continue at Modesto Junior College. "It was a relaxed competitiveness out there. Everyone knew each other. It was, 'Hit the ball as hard as you can, do what you can. If not, just have fun.'"
About 400 fans, split between the two games, basked in pleasant weather at Thurman Field. Saturday marked the second year the program, sponsored by the Modesto Sunrise Rotary Club, opted to a two-game format.
"When we started this 20 years ago, there was nothing all-star-wise for baseball," event chairman Carl Tognolini said. "We wanted to have the game at a nice place. What better place than a professional ballpark?"
Good pitching by Oakdale star Justin Jones and Grace Davis' Ryan Stice spiced the large-schools game. Jones, who hasn't yet decided between a scholarship at Cal and a pro career with the Chicago White Sox (he was drafted in the seventh round this week), struck out eight in four shutout innings.
"I'm leaning more toward the (White Sox)," Jones said. "It's still up in the air."
Michael Creamer, Stice's teammate with the Spartans, received the win in relief and also drove in three runs.