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Sonora players make mark in Merced baseball program

MERCED — The blue and gold of the Merced College baseball program is tinted with a wide swatch of green and gold from Sonora High School.

No fewer than 10 former Wildcats now call themselves

Blue Devils, with six currently on the team and four more in the program as redshirts.

"We've had a lot of success with the talent that comes to us from Sonora," Merced coach Chris Pedretti said. "They love playing and they're probably more dedicated than any other kids we get. They get in the weight room, get themselves strong, and make themselves better."

Making the biggest impact so far this season for the Blue Devils (7-9, 0-1 Central Valley Conference) are shortstop Ricky Pinocchio (Sonora Class of 2001), first baseman Brett Gordon (2000), and pitchers Brendan Kruse and James Smith (both 2001).

Pinocchio carried a team-leading .327 average into yesterday's conference opener at Fresno City (Merced lost 5-1), and upped the ante with a 3-for-4 day. He has two doubles, a home run, and six runs batted in as the leadoff man, while Gordon is batting .256 with team highs of four doubles and eight RBIs from the cleanup spot.

Kruse and Smith give Merced a lefty-right closer combination. Kruse, the left-hander, is 2-0 with two saves and has yet to give up a run in six appearances.

"He's been our best pitcher so far," Pedretti said.

Smith, a right-hander, is 0-1 with two saves and had a 4.22 earned-run average — pretty good in the heavy hitting junior college game — before pitching a scoreless inning against Fresno.

Gino Pinocchio (2001) was sharing time at second base until he tore a finger tendon on his right hand while turning a double play.

"The trainer said he should be out eight weeks, but he's trying to play through it," Pedretti said. "That shows how tough he is."

Third baseman Corey Spinks (2000) also has injury problems, as a twice-sprained ankle has limited him to one at-bat.

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