A group of scouts clustered together in the middle of the Blue Devil Diamond bleachers on Tuesday evening, their radar guns at the ready in anticipation of Bradin Hagens taking the mound.
The Merced College ace didn't disappoint.
Throwing on 10 days rest, Hagens was dominant in the Blue Devils' 6-0 victory.
The sophomore mowed through the Taft lineup, striking out 12 and only allowing two hits in a 97-pitch complete game shutout.
With Fresno City's 8-0 shutout of College of the Sequoias, MC (12-1, 22-6) remains the only one-loss team in the Central Valley Conference.
"The extra rest was great," Hagens said. "My arm felt really fresh.
"Coach didn't come over and talk to me the whole game, so I figured things were going pretty well."
Hagens was drafted in the 37th round by the Kansas City Royals last summer, but never really considered signing.
Blessed with a big fastball, the MC hurler knew he needed at least one more year to refine his secondary pitches.
If Tuesday's showing was any indication, the development is coming along nicely.
Utilizing a wicked backdoor slider, Hagens sat Taft down in order in six of the nine innings.
He didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning, when a Dominic McGovern flair just caught the chalk down the left-field line.
Taft (10-3 CVC, 18-10-1) never had more than one runner reach base in an inning.
"After the fourth inning we really started going to his slider," MC coach Chris Pedretti said. "You could tell the extra rest was a plus for him.
"(Hagens) was simply dominant."
The MC lineup wasn't too bad either.
Facing a Taft pitching staff that's held opponents to just a .254 average for the year, the Blue Devils pounded out 12 hits.
Joe Buckley got things started in the second inning with a two-out, two-run double.
Hunter Adrian and Ruben Perez each had run-scoring singles to pad the lead and Jason Hague led off the fifth inning with a solo home run.
"We have a different approach at the plate than most teams," Hague said. "One through nine, everybody in this lineup trusts each other.
"We have no selfish players out there and guys turn in a lot of smart at-bats."
Hague finished the game 3 for 5 with a double and an RBI. Adrian, Buckley and Anthony Jakosa all had a pair of hits for the Blue Devils.
"I was real happy with the bottom three of the order tonight," Pedretti said. "Buckley got it going with a big two-out double.
"Anytime you can throw out Perez, Buckley and Kori Melo in the 7-8-9, you're doing pretty well."
MC will travel to Taft on Friday and stay the night for back-to-back games to close out the series.
Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
At Merced College
Taft 000 000 000 -- 0 2 3
Merced 021 020 10x -- 6 12 1
Garrett Jensen, Kevin Chapman (5) Devin Thomas (8) and Darby Ventura. Bradin Hagens and Anthony Jakosa. WP -- Hagens 7-0. LP -- Jensen 4-2.
TAFT -- Dominic McGovern 2B.
MERCED COLLEGE -- Jason Hague 3-5 (HR, 2B, RBI), Hunter Adrian 2-4 (RBI), Kory Vitato 2-3 (2B), Anthony Jakosa 2-4, Joe Buckley 2-4 (2B, 2 RBI).
Records: Taft 10-3 CVC, 18-10-1; Merced College 12-1 CVC, 22-6.