Sports

Merced County All-Star Game will reunite last two Los Banos section champion coaches.

Los Banos High baseball coach Pat Fuentes talks with assistant coach David Zuniga before a playoff game at Tony Zupo Field earlier this season in Lodi, Calif.
Los Banos High baseball coach Pat Fuentes talks with assistant coach David Zuniga before a playoff game at Tony Zupo Field earlier this season in Lodi, Calif. Los Banos High

Pat Fuentes described himself as a “little knucklehead” when he was in high school. He didn’t always make the best decisions.

Fuentes credits his high school baseball coach Keith Petiti at Los Banos High in helping him stay on the right path.

“He kept me around,” said Fuentes. “Coach could have thrown me to the streets. He always dealt with whatever I had going on, whether it was bad grades, attitude or whatever it was. Now that I’m a coach, I realize kids aren’t always going to believe in what I believe in. I have to adjust to them.”

Fuentes was an infielder and batted ninth on Los Banos’ Sac-Joaquin Section championship team in 1994 coached by Petiti and current Buhach Colony coach Greg Wakefield. That was the Tigers’ last section championship team until Fuentes coached Los Banos to a 28-1 record and a section title this past spring.

Petiti and Fuentes will be in opposing dugouts as coaches in Saturday’s 10th annual Merced County All-Star Game at Merced College. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

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Former Los Banos High baseball coaches Keith Petiti (left) and Greg Wakefield celebrate winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship in 1994. Photo Submitted by Keith Petiti Keith Petiti

“It’s going to be great,” Fuentes said. “It’s going to be fun to have coach there. He’s a big reason I am a coach. He gave me a chance.”

Petiti was the head coach at Los Banos for six years from 1990 to 1995. He then moved on to Merced High to coach with former Bears coach Lou Souza and has spent the past two years as an assistant at El Capitan.

“Pat was a good player,” Petiti said. “He was our nine-hole hitter. Without Pat, we probably don’t win a section title. He was one of those guys that makes the team jell.”

Petiti remembers the struggles at times coaching Fuentes.

“He didn’t play all four years for us because he didn’t get his job done in the classroom,” Petiti said. “He was a rough kid when he was younger. The kids came to us and said they really want him to play on the team. The team captains said they’d like him to play. We took a chance on him.

“I remember thinking if this kid screws up again he‘s gone, but he did everything we asked. He’s a true success story.”

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Los Banos High baseball coach Pat Fuentes talks with assistant coach David Zuniga before a playoff game at Tony Zupo Field earlier this season in Lodi, Calif. Joseph Barcellos Los Banos High

Petiti has watched as Fuentes and Los Banos have been knocking on the door of making a long run in the postseason. He was in Lodi to watch the Tigers win the section title this spring.

“I’m proud of him,” Petiti said. “Even after all these years after I left for Merced, I still look at Los Banos. I spent six years there. Pat’s done a good job. He’s smart and he knows baseball.”

The Merced County All-Star Game will feature the North vs South. Petiti will coach the South and Fuentes the North.

The North team will be comprised of players from Atwater, Buhach Colony, Gustine, Hilmar, Livingston, Pacheco and Los Banos. It’s a squad loaded with pitchers, including Buhach Colony’s Alex Kendrick, Los Banos’ Kody Cardoza and Max Ramirez and Livingston’s Cesar Avila.

The South team is made up of players from Dos Palos, El Capitan, Golden Valley, Le Grand, Stone Ridge Christian, Merced, Sonora and Mariposa.

Players have to be selected to their respective all-league teams to be chosen for the game.

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