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Bulldogs end run with regional runner-up finish
Turlock baseball pic1
Turlock High pitcher Jeremy McDonald winds up for a pitch during the Bulldogs 14-4 loss to St. Marys High on Saturday in the championship game of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament at UOP in Stockton. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal

STOCKTON — Compared to the type of season the Turlock High baseball team created this year, the ending was anticlimactic. St. Mary’s High runner Vince Borrego came across home plate after a wild pitch to put into effect the 10-run mercy rule. A couple of his teammates hopped over the fence of the dugout to celebrate the program’s third consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South championship.

Turlock’s season was a wrap.

The Bulldogs repeatedly said after Saturday afternoon’s 14-4 loss in six innings that, yes, one of their goals was to dethrone St. Mary’s but they still had another standout season — even if that meant they settled for the regional runner-up finish for the second consecutive season at Klein Family Field on the University of Pacific campus.

In the last two seasons, Turlock (24-8 overall) has notched 48 victories.

“It was a great accomplishment for this year’s team to match last year’s record,” Bulldogs coach Mark de la Motte said. “Forty-eight wins in two years, which is pretty good. They knew they’d get back and try to win it. We met all of our goals except for this last one.

“But we gave it a shot.”

They sure did. After opening the regional tournament with wins over Lodi High and Downey High of Modesto, the Bulldogs entered the double-elimination portion with a 6-0 loss to St. Mary’s (22-9 overall). That was the fourth time Turlock had to face the almighty private school, a stretch that included a 7-3 win over the Rams with Vince Wheeland — now at Oklahoma State — pitching at the time. The Bulldogs then had to find a way out of the losers’ bracket, and they did it by topping Lincoln High of Stockton in convincing 9-3 fashion and whipping Merced High — which had won two of the previous three meetings — in epic 23-2 fashion.

After that, Turlock faced St. Mary’s for a fifth time in two years. And the Rams didn’t slow down their punishments, as they exploded for 11 runs in the second and fifth innings, more than enough to set a date with North winner Jesuit High in the Section final beginning on Friday at Sacramento City College.

“They’re a good team,” Turlock senior shortstop Kevin Kramer said about the Rams. “They play sound defense. They hit the ball well. I don’t think you could pinpoint the one reason why we lost. We didn’t get big hits. They have a good pitching staff. They use a lot of deception, and they pitch the ball well. Again, there wasn’t one thing that we needed to do in order to win.”

After the Rams commenced the game with an open inning run, Turlock made it 2-1 with RBI singles from Brent Backlund and Ricky Fuentes. But then the Bulldogs — who allowed the seven runs in the second — were able to get another RBI single by Ryan Cumberland in the third and a sacrifice RBI by Kramer in the fifth.

De la Motte used Jeremy McDonald (8-4) as the starting pitcher before replacing him with Cumberland in the third inning. In all, the Bulldogs gave up 15 hits. And in all, it wasn’t fair to base the Bulldogs’ season on this one game, the players and de la Motte said.

“They’re tough to beat,” de la Motte said about the Rams. “We beat them last year once. They’re good. When you get this far, the other team should be really good. We didn’t beat them. I’m sad it’s over, but I’m happy with what we’re able to accomplish.”

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.