Rangers cap off year with undefeated season

Redwood’s Wyatt McElree runs the bases on the road against Mt. Whitney.(Kason Clark)

Redwood baseball caps off the regular season with a 4-0 road win over Mt. Whitney; the Rangers finish the year 15-0 in the East Yosemite League and 23-5 overall

VISALIA – Redwood baseball had already captured the East Yosemite League title heading into its game against Mt. Whitney this past Friday night. But as they went on the road, the Rangers had one more goal they wanted to accomplish: a second straight undefeated season in the EYL.

With their 4-0 win over the Pioneers on May 10, the Rangers accomplished just that. With a second straight season going 15-0 in the EYL, the Rangers have now won 30 straight league games dating back to the beginning of the 2023 season. With this being his final year in the program, senior Cruz Rodriguez was happy to continue the Rangers’ success.

“It’s a great feeling because the previous guys set the tone for us,” Rodriguez said. “We believed we could do it again, and we did it again. We reached for the stars with that one.”

The Rangers lost several players from last season’s undefeated squad, so Redwood head coach Dan Hydash was not expecting the Rangers to go undefeated again. But the young Rangers were ready for the challenge.

“Coming in, we were young and inexperienced but the kids have bought in from day one,” Hydash said. “We didn’t expect to go 15-0 again. That’s really tough to do, so I couldn’t be any more proud of our guys.”

Along with the undefeated record in the EYL, the Rangers finished the regular season with an overall record of 23-5. They are also playing strong baseball heading into the postseason with 11 straight victories. While they were challenged at points in their league season, the Rangers remained resilient to remain unbeaten.

“We never gave up when we were down, we never kept our heads down,” Rodriguez said. “We kept them up and we just tried to persevere through that.”

That grit came through for the Rangers in their regular-season finale against the Pioneers. In the top of the second inning, Cash Rico scored on a Pioneer error to give the Rangers the lead. Then in the top of the fourth, the Rangers continued to take advantage of Mt. Whitney’s mistakes.

After working his way to third base, Rico scored on a passed ball. Hunter Kittinger then scored on a Mt. Whitney error to extend the lead to 3-0. Later in the inning, another passed ball allowed Wyatt McElree to score to push the lead out to 4-0. While it was not pretty, the Rangers demonstrated their ability to grind out the runs.

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Mt. Whitney’s Kaden Welch pitches at home against Redwood. (Kason Clark)

“That’s something that we’ve done all year: we get guys on base, we like to steal bags and we start runners early,” Hydash said. “When you put the pressure on the defense, you’re going to force a lot of errors and we’ve been able to take advantage.”

The Redwood defense held steady throughout the night thanks to Rodriguez’s pitching performance on the mound. Through the rest of the night, the Pioneers failed to break through as Rodriguez completed the game allowing no runs and only one hit.

“Everything was working for me, such as my fastball and my changeup,” Rodriguez said about his performance. “I just got in that rhythm.”

As they failed to score a run, the Pioneers finished the regular season with a 6-9 record in the EYL and an overall mark of 11-16. While it was a tough way to end the season, Mt. Whitney head coach Payton Allen believes they can still compete in the postseason.

“We’ll regroup and refocus and get ready,” Allen said. “I think that we have some talent and we’re going to surprise some people but at the end of the day, we have to show up and play good baseball.”

As for the Rangers, they are feeling good with another strong season in the EYL. But as they now look ahead to the postseason, Hydash knows the Rangers will have to step up their game with tougher competition going forward.

“We’re in the Division I playoffs and that’s no joke. So whatever seed we get, we’re going to have a tough guy in front of us,” Hydash said. “Everybody in D-I has at least one guy on the mound – if not two or three – so we have to be ready to go.”

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