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Bulldogs drop league contest to Eagles in showcase at John Thurman Field
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Turlock High baseball coach Mike Souza (blue helmet) rallies the troops after falling behind early to Enochs during Friday's Modesto Nuts High School Baseball Showcase at John Thurman Field. The Eagles went on to win the Central California Athletic League game 4-3 (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

Enochs High’s Kannon Sharpe outdueled Turlock’s Payton Hawkinson in a battle of aces, propelling the Eagles to a 4-3 Central California Athletic League victory in Friday’s Modesto Nuts High School Baseball Showcase at John Thurman Field.

Sharpe was impressive, allowing just two hits over the first six innings before the Bulldogs rallied for three runs on four hits in the home half of the seventh. 

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Turlock High's Carter Crivelli dives safely back first base on a pick-off attempt during Friday's game against Enochs (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

But with Owen Miller up to bat representing the go-ahead run, a tiring Sharpe ended the contest with his 10th strikeout of the game — though Miller was obviously unhappy with the umpire’s call.

“I had the mentality that I was going to go out there and shove it down their throats, no matter what,” said Sharpe, who dominated Turlock two seasons ago as a freshman, fanning 11 in the 2021 encounter while holding the ’Dogs to just three hits. “I told my guys, ‘If you mess up behind me, don’t worry about it, I’m going to pick you up. Just trust me. I told them that right before the game, ‘I’m going to do whatever I can to win a baseball game for you guys today.’”

The Eagles did, indeed, mess up behind Sharpe to the tune of five errors, but the junior right-hander worked around the miscues and kept Turlock off balance for the majority of the contest. 

A single and two errors loaded the bases for the Bulldogs in the third, but Sharpe fanned Tyler Castro and Carson Gonzales to escape harm.

“He threw well,” said Turlock coach Mike Souza. “He’d get the first-pitch curveball over for a strike and did a great job keeping us off balance. I just wanted to see our players competing a little more. We were kind of down.”

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It was a tough day at the office for Turlock starter Payton Hawkinson. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound southpaw yielded four runs on nine hits in seven innings of work against Enochs (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

Hawkinson, meanwhile, scattered nine hits over seven innings and fell into nice groove after surrendering two runs in the first inning and one in the second. He struck out 11 Eagles.

“I had a lot of adrenaline going through me, but it was good adrenaline,” said Hawkinson. “I felt good, but stuff happens. You can’t be perfect every time.”

The showcase matchup was supposed to be the final game in the teams’ three-game league set, but Wednesday’s game was postponed due to rain and will be played today at Enochs High’s Dick Windemuth Field at 11 a.m.

The Bulldogs enter today’s game with a 3-2 league record, while Enochs is 2-3. Gregori is 5-1 while Pitman is 2-0-1.

While no contest at this stage of the season can truly be considered a “must-win” game, today’s game takes on added importance when one considers the volatility of the weather this season and how it’s impacted, and may still impact, the schedule.

With the league we’re in right now and all the competitive teams in it, everything’s a must win,” said EHS coach Haig Shahbazian. “It’s a gauntlet. So, everything in our mind is a must-win.”

Sharpe agreed with his coach.

“We felt like if we took down one of the best pitchers in our league — and he was the best pitch in our league last year — no one would be a problem for us the rest of the year,” said Sharpe. “So, we talked about it before the game, we wanted to get on him early, get on his fastball and get him rattled. We’ve been talking about this game for weeks.”