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SOLEDAD — Coming into this high school baseball season, the Soledad Aztecs had to replace a lot of players from last year’s team, which included a Division I player.

But head baseball coach Damien Ryan and his coaching staff have the Aztecs in title contention again after they swept their South Monterey County rival, the King City Mustangs, in their season series.

When a team loses a lot of seniors, normally it takes a year or two to rebuild. But with Ryan, one of the winningest coaches in the county, things tend to turn around quickly.

So far, the Soledad Aztecs have shocked many with their 14-3 overall record, following wins against the Mustangs (4-12 overall) on April 8 (12-0) and April 11 (4-0). Last season the Aztecs finished with a 14-12 record while playing in the Gabilan Division.

When looking at the Aztecs’ three losses, the only one that has been both sides is when they lost to Palma, who is in the Gabilan Division. The other losses are all one-run losses.

The Aztecs have been swinging the bat really well this season. So far they have 10 wins that they won by five runs or more. One player who has been leading the hitting train is Anakin Tavares, who leads the team in RBIs with 14.

Another player who has really been killing it for the Aztecs has been senior Andrew Nichols, who has been dominant on the mound. In his last start against the King City Mustangs, he had a perfect game with 14 strikeouts. It wasn’t long ago that he pitched a no-hitter against Rancho San Juan, where he had another 14 strikeouts.

Currently, Soledad sits atop the Mission Division with a 9-1 league record. The Aztecs still have a long road ahead to see if they will claim another league title, with huge match-ups against Stevenson and Everett Alvarez coming up.

This week, Soledad will play at home on Wednesday against Stevenson, and then travel on Friday for an away game at Stevenson.

King City, with a 2-8 league record, will travel to Rancho San Juan on Wednesday, and then host Rancho San Juan on Friday.

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Jason Gallardo is the sports reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers high school sports for South Monterey County.


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