Sai Davuluri said the Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year award has always lingered in the back of his mind.
The El Capitan right-hander had hoped to make a run at it as a sophomore but had his season derailed by injuries. Nothing was going to stand in his way this season.
Davuluri went 10-1 with a 1.26 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 72 innings. He was even better in league play, going 6-0 and allowing just five total earned runs in six starts, making him the unanimous choice for Pitcher of the Year.
It was part of a big haul for the league-champion Gauchos, which took three of the WAC’s four major awards. Braiden Ward was named the Offensive Player of the Year, Aaron Ruiz the Coach of the Year and Patterson’s Santiago Cantu the MVP.
94 Strikeouts in 72 innings by El Capitan’s Sai Davuluri, the Western Athletic Conference’s Pitcher of the Year
“It felt great to win it,” Davuluri said. “I just wanted to help my team win, but it’s always nice to have your contribution recognized. A lot of the credit goes to coach (Brandon) Sanchez. He tells us when to throw and when to ice and keeps us healthy. He calls the entire game.
“I feel very fortunate, and this gives me something to build on going into next year.”
Table setters can be overlooked, but much like Rickey Henderson and other true leadoff men, Ward demanded attention. He was second in the league in batting average (.457) and slugging percentage (.673), and led the WAC in stolen bases (27) and runs (43).
“Honestly, I didn’t even know it was an award, but it’s a real honor,” Ward said. “There were a couple guys in league that were raking right there with me, so I’m sure it could have gone any other way.
“With the core of our starters all getting recognized in some way, I think that says a lot about our team and why we’re playing for a section title.”
El Capitan paced all teams with seven players on the first or second team. Joining Ward and Davuluri on the first team were starting pitcher Chase Whitaker and second baseman Sammy Mora. Catcher Brendan Kemps, first baseman Jacob Pilkington and outfielder Tyler Skelton were named to the second team.
.457 Batting average of El Capitan’s Braiden Ward, the WAC’s Offensive Player of the Year
“I was very happy with how the voting went,” Ruiz said. “The coaches in our league really looked beyond the numbers and saw who contributed what to each team.”
Livingston and Los Banos each had a pair of first teamers. Shortstop Blake Jantz and outfielder Eddie Avila represented the Wolves, while catcher Tyler Wilson and third baseman James Bostick were rewarded for stellar seasons with the Tigers.
LB also had three players named to the second team: pitcher Kody Cardoza, shortstop Kevin Spencer and outfielder Trent Mallonee.
Among those receiving honorable mention were Los Banos’ Josh Gould, Vinnie Greco and Julian Arrechavala; Pacheco’s Mike Valenzuela and Diego Reynoso; and El Capitan’s Mark Sellers and Rafael Mercado.