Turlock Christian baseball ended their seven-year playoff drought this week after topping Big Valley Christian High in Monday's Central California Athletic Alliance battle that came down to the wire and resulted in a one-run game in favor of the Eagles.
TC, up a game in the CCAA standings prior to Wednesday's game, needed just one victory to secure the league title, but Venture Academy came into town and put a pause to that after topping TC in an 8-2 final and setting up a winner-take-all match on Friday for the league title.
“We knew what was at stake coming in,” said TC head coach James Burbank. “They have to beat us twice and just to clinch the title, we are already in the playoffs and I am proud of these guys. Coaches, we coach but the players execute and two years ago this didn't seem like a possibility.”
After Wednesday's game, both TC and VA are tied atop the CCAA with a record of 10-3.
“Here we are, we are playing for a championship on Friday and we know our season is not over after Friday,” said Burbank. “We are now in a position to possibly win a league championship and that is exciting for this baseball team.”
It is a turnaround that was a long time coming. TC has not won a league title since the 2007 season when they went 13-2 in the Southern Athletic League—when they were part of it.
“I am excited not just for this year, but for the future of TC baseball,” said Burbank.
This year looks to be the start of the future, with six of the nine starters currently a sophomore or freshmen.
The Eagles have gone on a successful run this regular season currently with an overall record of 10-4-1.
Wednesday seemed like the day but after the fourth inning all bets were off a flurry of errors and unearned runs caught up to the Eagles quickly.
TC's Ethan Fisher, who drove in the only earned run of the ball game, did it in the bottom of the second, bringing in Eli Roos to take an early 1-0 lead.
Starting pitcher Ryan Leonesio did a fantastic job in 4 and 2/3 innings, allowing no earned runs in the process.
The slide started in the top of the fourth after three runs were scored by VA to take a 3-1 lead with a two-out rally that was coupled with multiple errors.
“Couple errors give them a few runs and opens the lead a little bit,” said Burbank.
With two outs in the fifth inning, Leonesio was subbed out and was immediately followed by a barrage of errors, resulting in VA going up 7-1.
All of Venture's eight runs were unearned.
TC also committed five errors as opposed to VA's two.
“It was going really good and Ryan was throwing a great game,” said Burbank. “But really it was the unearned runs that killed us and untimely walks. We always seem to struggle once we have two outs. Two, two-out rallies are how they got all their runs basically and that has been our struggle all year.”
The pitchers for TC accounted for eight combined walks for the game. Leonesio allowed four unearned runs on five hits, walked four and struck out six.
Jakob Skinner came in and walked three and allowed three unearned runs in no innings pitched while Markie Delgadillo came in as relief and went 2 and 1/3 innings, allowing one unearned run on one walk and struck out one.
“We are going to try and tighten it up before Friday, it’s a winner take all,” Burbank added. “Venture is a good team and they need the win to qualify for playoffs. We did but now it’s going to be tough on Friday, we know we will have to claw on Friday.”
TC will travel on the road to Stockton to take on VA for the CCAA crown at 4 p.m. Friday.