If Joel Bustos and the Sunnyside High baseball team were flying under the radar, they aren’t anymore.
Not after the junior right-handed stifled top-seeded Edison over the first five innings, propelling the ninth-seeded Wildcats to a 5-0 upset in the quarterfinals of the Central Section Division II baseball playoffs. Sunnyside will play at No. 4 Hanford in Wednesday’s semifinals.
“I’m sure no one gave us a chance,” Bustos said. “But we proved them wrong.”
The section’s seeding committee certainly wasn’t sold on Sunnyside, which went 6-8 in nonleague play — including games against all of the schools from Clovis Unified — before finishing 11-4 to tie for second in the North Yosemite League.
Sunnyside was seeded behind four teams from the West Yosemite League (No. 2 El Diamante, No. 3 Redwood, Hanford and No. 6 Hanford West), as well as No. 8 Bakersfield, which finished last in the Southwest Yosemite League and entered the postseason with a sub-.500 record.
“I felt we had a terrible seed,” coach Jared Thompson said. “These kids are trying to earn respect. I’ve challenged these guys to put Sunnyside on the map, prove why we belong.”
Bustos set the tone by striking out four of the first seven batters he faced. He pitched around Casey Wagnon’s leadoff double in the third, a leadoff walk to Adrian Galarza in the fourth and a one-out single by Wagnon in the fifth before giving way to reliever Luke Juarez.
“He’s been lights out all year,” Thompson said of a pitcher who entered 4-1 with a 1.27 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 33 innings. “I think he’s the best right-hander in the Valley, but no one knows about him because he’s from Sunnyside.”
As good as Bustos was — and Edison coach Cliff Rold said he and Juarez, who allowed two hits in two scoreless innings, were dominant —the defense was even better.
Shortstop Fernando Espinoza made a barehanded snag and throw off a high chopper behind the pitcher’s mound to nail a runner at first, preventing a run from scoring.
Espinoza started a double play that ended the sixth and another that wiped out a leadoff single in the seventh; center fielder Juarez made a dazzling running catch in the right-center gap in the third to deny Edison a run; and third baseman Jose Lemus made several tough plays.
“We played the best defense of our lives,” Espinoza said. “We were ready to play. I’m still feeling jitters in my stomach. I was on it today.”
Juarez delivered the only run Sunnyside (19-12) would need with an RBI double in the second inning, scoring Marcus Hawkins from first after he had drawn a walk.
Omar Lopez singled in Hawkins in the fourth, and the Wildcats pulled away in the seventh with three runs, including an RBI single by Lemus and a run-scoring double by Hawkins.
“We played team baseball,” Espinoza said. “That’s what it’s all about.
“We’re not a team to mess with or take lightly. We’ve got hitting, defense and the top two pitchers. I don’t think anyone can beat us.”