State

Davis High pitcher strikes out 11 to keep playoff hopes alive

Downey High's lone run in its 2-1 loss at Davis on Tuesday came in the form of a typical Little League home run.

With one out in the sixth inning of a scoreless game, Cody Simar lofted a wind-aided fly ball to right field off pitcher Jake Sisco that was dropped for an error, then thrown away at third base on the relay, allowing Simar to circle the bases.

A year ago, such an occurrence might have been the end of Sisco's physical and emotional control on the mound. This time, the senior righty took a deep breath and got the final five outs without incident.

And when No. 9 hitter Wade Bettencourt delivered a two-out, two-run single to left-center in the bottom of the inning, the Spartans remained alive in the Modesto Metro Conference race.

"If we win out, we're in," said Davis coach Kevin Ruiz, whose Spartans improved to 11-7-1 overall and 5-5 in the MMC while the Knights fell to 14-8, 7-3, one game behind first-place Beyer.

"If we hang another loss on Downey on Thursday, we're only a game out of second place, and Beyer and Downey still have to play each other. If we take care of business, we're in. It would be the hard way in, but we'll take it."

Whether or not Davis reaches the postseason, it can boast of having perhaps the area's top right-handed power pitching prospect in Sisco.

Tuesday's outing improved his record to 8-2 with a 0.77 ERA. His 11 strikeouts in Tuesday's two-hit effort boosted his season total to 101, against 23 walks, and he's allowed only 32 hits in 63ª innings.

A professional scout in the stands clocked his fastball between 88 and 90 MPH, and he complements it with a slider and a changeup he doesn't throw very much.

But with all the improvements Sisco has made since his Davis varsity debut as a freshman, the most important has been staying focused when things don't go his way.

"I do get mad out there and I do get upset when things happen, but I just try to use that emotion to my advantage," Sisco said.

"That's a big change for me from last year, when I'd let things get out of hand when something happened behind me. I'd start throwing all over the place."

And Ruiz said the more mature Sisco makes him an asset every day in practice, not only when it's his turn to pitch.

"It all starts with his head," Ruiz said. "He's a lot more mature this year and has assumed a leadership role. He takes things seriously going into every outing. So his success this season has started in his head because he's been focused and ready to go."

Through five innings, Sisco was matching zeroes with Simar (6-2,) who has more of a pitch-to-contact mentality on the mound.

And like Sisco, Simar also did not allow an earned run, although he did have a hand in Davis' game-winning rally.

Martin Limon reached on an infield error to open the inning, but was at second base with two out. Simar hit the next two batters to load the bases, then Bettencourt hit the first pitch cleanly over shortstop to plate the two runs.

"Coach told me not to change my swing and that I eventually would peak," said Bettencourt, who lined hard to first base in his previous at-bat. "So I just found the ball and put the barrel on it."

Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at bvanderbeek@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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