With Turlock High already the lone Central California Conference title holder, as well as cinching a postseason berth, it was Pitman who was looking for a must-win game in their home regular season finale to keep their postseason hopes still alive.
However, Blake Cederlind and the Bulldogs defense had another thing in mind — to win and beat their cross town rivals any way possible.
A six-run inning in the top of the sixth lifted the ‘Dogs to a 9-1 lead and Nick Gonzales, once again came in to close out the game with a shutout inning, as they capped out the win, and also crushed any postseason hopes for the Pride of Pitman.
“It was a game that would have given us a chance, but after the loss it doesn’t really matter at this point,” Pitman head coach John Acha said.
“We played well. Blake didn’t have his best stuff, he struggled a little bit, but our guys did a great job and we got some runs to break it open so I am proud of our guys,” Turlock head coach Mark de la Motte said.
After the loss the Pride end their season with a 15-11 overall record and 8-7 in the CCC, which is good enough for fourth place, but the Pride will miss the postseason for the first time in the last three seasons.
“The fact that we lost our number one and two pitchers after the first two weeks and still we were able to compete and at least make it come down to the last game and the possibility, I commend these guys and they battled all year long,” Acha said. “It wasn’t easy, we really had to rely on a lot of other guys.”
Turlock looks strong heading into the playoffs as they have won five out of their final six regular season games to post up a 21-5 overall record and 13-2 in the CCC.
In four out of the last five seasons, Turlock has put up over 20 wins overall during the regular season.
“At first I wasn’t so sure how we would do but our seniors were great leaders and they exceeded our expectations — not theirs — but ours, since we didn’t know what to expect after losing so many pitchers last year. But they really picked it up and played great defense and pitched well,” de la Motte said.
The Bulldogs struck first in the top of the second with two runs and Pitman would follow with a run of their own in the bottom of the third after Colton Evans slapped an RBI single to score Armando Moreno with two outs, but that would be it for the Pride.
“I felt the guys coming in were relaxed but we just didn’t make some of the plays that we needed or laid bunts down and move guys when we needed to and Turlock’s fielding did a great job,” said Acha.
Seven runs were scored in the fifth and sixth inning for Turlock to put them up by eight for the remainder of the contest.
In total, Pitman would finish five of seven innings by way of a double play and that became the name of the game.
“We had position with certain guys and the ball fell in play for them. They hit the ball hard and we did here and there but weren’t really able to get anything together. Sometimes it just happens you hit the ball into the perfect spot to make that happen,” Acha said about their double plays struggle.
Only two players for the Pride would get the four hits with Evans tallying two as well as Coleton Horner.
Horner batted .468 overall and .489 in league this year and managed to get a hit in every single game this season as he rode a 26-game hitting streak.
Starting pitcher Cederlind would once again come up big for the Bulldogs as he tossed 5 and 1/3 inning and allowed only one run on three hits and struck out six en route to his eighth win of the season to finish with a perfect 8-0 record during the regular season.
“Cederlind did a great job getting groundballs for double plays, he made some great stops on bunts to get us out. So tip your hat for Cederlind and doing a good job,” Acha said.
Bubba Moreno would finish the day with a 3-for-4 performance after catching two doubles and a triple with three RBI to lead all Bulldogs hitters.
“This team has great communication but sometimes they frustrate us, mainly cause their young and were not. They responded when we have challenged them so I am happy for them,” said de la Motte.
Pitman packs their bags and end their year but next season should be bright as the Pride returns a large portion of their core.
“We are losing some senior starters but we will have a lot of juniors returning and obviously Matt Carrigg and Colton Evans which will be huge and they will get better since we have a strong junior class moving up next year so we should be strong as long as we stay healthy. I think we can compete again,” Acha added.
Turlock will get a first round bye and play at 4 p.m. May 15 against an opponent yet to be announced.
“I love it,” de la Motte says about getting the infamous water bath just minutes after the post-game talk. “We will be rested so sometimes that is good, other times not so well but we’re going to have to come prepared and play well and it’s always a fun ride.”