It was an admittedly disappointing season for the Merced College baseball team.
The Blue Devils lost twice in the final week of the regular season, including a 6-4 defeat to rival Fresno City on the final day, to miss out on the postseason for the first time in 10 years.
But while team success eluded Merced, there were a number of solid individual seasons. The result is seven sophomores will continue their careers at four-year schools.
Garret Boothe’s signing to play at Bethany College was announced last week. His departure will be joined by catcher Phil Parga (University of La Verne), infielder Daniel McDonnell (La Verne), pitcher Thomas Longworth (Tabor College), pitcher Brent Backlund (Central Oklahoma), outfielder Nick Mello (Jarvis Christian College) and infielder Bryan Rubalcaba (Jarvis Christian).
Parga was a two-year starter at catcher for the Blue Devils. He hit .225 with 10 RBI in 2014.
McDonnell proved to be a useful bat off of the bench in his two years at Merced.
Longworth continued the recent trend of Blue Devils to Tabor College. He’ll join his brother, Russell, after going 3-1 with a 2.43 ERA.
Backlund joins a Central Oklahoma squad that just missed out on the postseason. He’ll try to help push the Broncos over the top after turning in a 3-5 season with a 3.84 ERA.
Mello and Rubalcaba are also joining an NAIA team seemingly on the rise. Mello was stellar in right field for the Blue Devils and hit .262 with 18 stolen bases and 11 RBIs.
Rubalcaba was the team’s utility man, splitting time at second base, shortstop and third base while hitting .286 in 28 games.
Center fielder Shota Nagatomi had plenty of four-year school options, but opted to return to Japan to play semi-pro ball. He heads home after earning recognition on the 2014 Rawlings Pacific Association Division Gold Glove team.