Pink is new color for Mudcats

Kyle Stafford is in his second season as head coach of the Mudcats.

Kyle Stafford had never laid his eyes on a pink bat until Mason Sayre came home from Hawaii Pacific University and broke it out after joining the Solano Mudcats. The second-year head coach now sees it every day because the 2022 Will C. Wood High graduate is not the only player to swing it.

Preston Freeman has had so much success with the wooden bat that he hopes to buy it from Sayre before returning to Cisco (Texas) College. Stafford simply hopes the bat can survive with 26 games remaining in the season because it is being used so often by so many players.

“I know all the players are anxious about it,” Stafford said, “because they (are swinging) early on pitches so they won’t get jammed.”

Will C. Wood graduate Mason Sayre shares his pink bat with teammates.

Breaking bats is no concern for Stafford in the spring as the associate head coach at Solano Community College. The Falcons use aluminum or composite bats with the familiar ping. Players can only use wooden bats in summer collegiate leagues.

Freeman used his own bat in the sixth inning Saturday when he belted a two-run triple. Connor Ross followed with a two-run homer in a 9-2 win over the West Coast Kings. Ross had a walk-off RBI single in the ninth inning last Tuesday to give the Mudcats a 7-6 win over the Kings.

The teams will meet four times this week with the first game Tuesday at 4 p.m. at San Ramon Valley High in Danvlille. The Mudcats will host the Kings at 5 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at SCC. The Mudcats are 2-1 in the new six-team Pacific Empire League and 5-3 overall.

Ross and Freeman have been fixtures in the Mudcats’ ever-changing lineup. Ross had a superb sophomore season at SCC, ranking fifth in the state with a .433 batting average. He was Player of the Year in the Bay Valley Conference, an all-state selection and the recipient of the CCCAA’s Northern California Big Stick Award.

Stafford used his coaching connections to recruit players from as far away as North Dakota, Iowa and Texas. He made a promise to all of his players that each would get a fair share of playing time. In return, he required each to put team goals ahead of personal objectives.

Introductions were made in the first practice. Stafford was surprised by how quickly the players meshed. “We’ve got a good group … a lot better than last year’s,” Stafford said. The Mudcats finished 6-29 in the California Collegiate Leageu and 4-33 overall in 2023.

Freeman was recruited by the Mudcats last fall when he was at the University of Texas-San Antonio. He was gone by the spring, opting to play at Cisco College. Injuries limited Freeman to 14 games and 21 at-bats. Playing for the Mudcats is an opportunity for Freeman to get back in the swing of things.

Contributing to the team’s success is Freeman’s priority. “I didn’t drive 26 hours from Texas to come here and lose,” he said. “Guys get close when you’re winning.”

And If Freeman can do his part by swinging a pink bat, so be it.