STOCKTON - After losing to St. Mary's High earlier this week, the Turlock High baseball team expected that a return trip to the championship round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament would not be an easy one.
But no one expected the Bulldogs to make it look this effortless.
In the final loser's bracket game, Turlock did not take it easy on Merced High - which had won two of three previous meetings - by setting off an explosion of runs and hits in a 23-2 victory in five innings on Thursday afternoon at Klein Family Field at the University of Pacific. The Bulldogs' big inning was in the third, when they pounded out 16 runs and a collection of dropped jaws on 14 hits and one error while going through at least 20 batters, with some of them visiting the plate three times.
Can anyone explain what just happened?
"No," Turlock coach Mark de la Motte said with a playful smirk. "We were hitting the ball where they weren't and sometimes right at them. It happened to us when we lost three games in a row earlier in the year. Hope we saved a few hits."
It looks like the Bulldogs (24-7 overall) will have plenty of ammunition left. For the second consecutive season, they face St. Mary's of Stockton (21-9 overall) in the regional final today at 4 p.m. at Klein Family Field. The Rams had to use an "if-necessary" game last season to finish off Turlock. The Bulldogs have the majority of that team back, and those players are determined to avoid a repeat.
To get here, Turlock had to overcome Monday's loss to St. Mary's before beating Lincoln High of Stockton in a convincing 9-3 fashion and whipping a Merced team that had beaten the Bulldogs twice to eventually gain a share of the Central California Conference. Without facing much of an offensive attack in the past two games, Turlock's bullpen is well-rested for today's possible two games; since St. Mary's has no losses in the double-elimination tournament, the Bulldogs will need to win twice in order to capture the championship.
"The whole season," said third baseman Ryan Cumberland, "we've been coming back from losses. With every loss, we'd come back with a win streak. It really motivated us to get back and play the game."
The Bulldogs had little mercy on the Bears.
Cumberland went 5-for-5 with four RBIs and a double, Kevin Kramer finished with two hits and a standup RBI triple, Ryan Brown also had a triple after collecting two hits and three RBIs, James Heller was 3-for-4 with three RBIs and Brent Backlund finished with three hits and three RBIs.
Oh, Ryan Flood and Tommy Evans got two RBIs apiece, while Ricky Fuentes went 2-for-5 with an RBI.
Merced used seven pitchers on this day.
"When they start pulling out their pitchers," Fuentes said, "it really starts to boost our confidence. It shows that they think they can't handle our hitting. Once we start to get up on these guys, we start building and building."
The Bulldogs hope to continue this "building and building" against St. Mary's.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.