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Known to steal: Hague approaching Blue Devils' single-season record

Jason Hague has an outside shot at capturing Merced College's single-season steals record.

The sophomore sits at 28 with 11 games to play in the regular season. Jeff Runyon's record of 42 is just 14 stolen bases away.

Hague's only concern is trying to help his team win, but he did acknowledge the record would be something special.

After all, if someone would have suggested that Hague would be making a run at the stolen-base mark a year ago ...

It would have sounded like a bad April Fool's joke.

"My entire career I've never been a good base stealer," Hague said. "I've always had speed, but never had a feel for it."

According to Blue Devils coach Chris Pedretti, stealing bases wasn't the only area Hague struggled with as a freshman.

"He just wasn't a good base runner," Pedretti said. "He didn't read pitchers. He'd just go on their first move. He relied on his speed too much."

So how did Hague become one of the best lead-off hitters in the state?

"He worked his butt off," MC assistant coach Steve Pinocchio said. "It was a matter of focus, repetitions and just being a smarter base runner.

"When you work that hard, your potential is limitless."

Hague credits Pinocchio for the major strides he's made, but regardless of how he got here, the results are undeniable.

The Blue Devils' catalyst leads the team in batting average (.410), runs (42), hits (50), home runs (3), total bases (65) and stolen bases.

The former Golden Valley star ranks third in the state in steals and hits and is tied for the state lead in runs.

"He's a good hitter, but it's his speed that's really set him apart," Pedretti said. "Jason has about a dozen infield singles off of bunts or just balls he beat out.

"Those added times on base have been huge for us."

Pedretti said the Blue Devils' likelihood of scoring goes up exponentially when Hague gets on. With an on-base percentage of .486, it's little wonder the Blue Devils have taken so many early leads this year.

Hague will be at it again today when the Blue Devils host College of the Sequoias at 2 p.m. for the second game of a three-game set.

"My approach leading off the game is simple, get on anyway possible," Hague said. "If I can then steal second, the next guy is going to bunt me over to third.

"It's a guaranteed run, because the next two guys are going to take care of business.

"That's how good this team is. One through nine, someone is going to step up and get that run home."

It's tough to argue with Hague's assessment.

The Blue Devils have won 16 of their last 17 games and have risen to No. 4 in the Northern California rankings.

MC ranks fourth in the state in runs scored and second in team earned run average.

Its 26-5 record has MC in position to break the school's single-season win mark of 34. The Blue Devils could also capture the school's first Central Valley Conference title in 23 years.

"This team is definitely special," Hague said. "We go out and play for each other and we all have the same goal.

"We dropped some games early on that we probably should have won, but we learned from those experiences and are a better team now because of them.

"I knew what we were losing last year and that I was going to have to step it up as a sophomore and lead.

"I'm not much of a talker, but I try to lead by example."

It's an example his teammates have happily followed.

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at

Sequoias at Merced College

WHEN: Today at 2 p.m.

RECORDS: College of the Sequoias 9-4 CVC, 20-9; Merced College 15-1 CVC, 25-6.

UP FOR GRABS: Merced opened the series on Tuesday with an 8-3 victory in Visalia. The Blue Devils now hold a three-game edge over the Giants in the standings.

PROBABLES: Sequoias' Greg Chapman (4-2) will likely toe the rubber against Merced's Logan Todd (6-2).