Sports

‘He hasn’t hit a cheap one yet.’ Merced County star chasing school home run record.

Livingston High senior Cesar Avila takes a lead off second base against Mountain House. The Wolves lost 5-2 on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at Memorial Ballpark in Atwater, Calif.
Livingston High senior Cesar Avila takes a lead off second base against Mountain House. The Wolves lost 5-2 on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at Memorial Ballpark in Atwater, Calif. Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

Cesar Avila is well aware he’s one swing away from breaking a school record.

The Livingston High senior is sitting on seven home runs this season. His seventh home run came on April 9 against Hughson. It tied the single-season home run record by A.J. Garcia, which was set in 1996. Garcia is the father of current Livingston catcher Tyler Garcia.

The baseball records are hanging in the baseball team room.

“Ever since my freshman year, I’ve been looking at that list of home runs,” Avila said. “I want to change the names up there and put my name. We’ve got a couple games left. I’ll get there.”

Avila’s seven home runs are tied for the lead in the Sac-Joaquin Section and tied for fifth in the state.

Avila put on a power display to start the season, hitting five home runs in the Wolves’ first 10 games. The four-year varsity starter is doing more than hitting home runs. He’s batting .375 on the season and leads the team with 25 runs scored and 22 RBIs.

Livingston coach Matt Winton has had the luxury of coaching Avila for four years and he’s not surprised with the numbers his star is posting.

“Not at all,” Winton said. “He’s really matured as a hitter. He’s had a lot of at-bats at the varsity level. I’ve been really impressed with him because early in the count he’s looked to drive the ball and when the count gets deeper, he’s done a really good job of going up the middle or going the other way.

“He’s been a dream to coach. I had his oldest brother C.J. for four years. I also had his middle brother Eddie, so I’ve had an Avila in my lineup for the past eight years. Cesar is just a special talent. He works hard and takes the game seriously.”

A sore shoulder has kept Avila from logging much time on the mound this season.

Last year Avila was the Wolves’ ace, compiling a 4-4 record with a 1.65 ERA. He had thrown just over eight innings coming into the 60th annual Fran Oneta/Atwater-Winton Lions Easter Baseball Tournament this week.

Avila says he’s undergone X-rays and MRIs, but doctors haven’t found anything wrong with his shoulder. There’s nothing structurally wrong with his arm, but he gets what he describes as a sharp, tight pain at times.

“It’s my senior year. I was looking forward to pitching for my team,” Avila said. “I love that feeling of winning games. I try to do it. I just get a pain in my shoulder.”

Avila was able to throw a complete game in Livingston’ 12-2 win over Turlock Christian on Tuesday.

Avila says it’s the best his arm has felt all season.

“It’s disappointing for me because I know how much he loves to pitch,” Winton said. “Obviously, we’re a better team when he’s on the mound.”

The sore shoulder hasn’t affected Avila’s swing.

“He hasn’t hit a cheap one yet,” Winton said. “He hasn’t hit one that I’ve had to talk to.”

The senior has six hits in the Wolves’ first three games of the Atwater tournament.

Avila had hit just one home run in his first three years at Livingston. After his homer barrage to start the season, Avila has noticed teams are pitching differently to him.

Coaches aren’t dumb. They scout teams by looking up statistics on MaxPreps.

“Teams are throwing me a lot of offspeed pitches,” Avila said. “I spend a lot of time in practice working on hitting offspeed pitches.”

Avila says he doesn’t go up to the plate trying to hit a home run. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t imagined what the next home run will feel like.

“It’s just another home run, but another home run breaks the record,” Avila said. “I know it’s going to be a great feeling.”

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