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Bulldogs feeling confident
Turlock baseball will have ace ready for Section title game
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Turlock High's Ryan Cumberland prepares to take a swing.
STOCKTON — On Wednesday night, the Turlock High baseball players aimed their eyes skyward and couldn't deny the dark clouds hovering above the Klein Family Field at the University of Pacific.
Yes, they had just beaten Beyer High 3-1 in the final consolation game of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament.
Yes, they had just witnessed an emerging star in freshman pitcher Nick Voumard, who was making his first varsity start … in a playoff game.
But the Bulldogs had pretty much exhausted all their best pitchers by the time the game was over and coach Mark de la Motte was looking to insert guys who had little experience on the mound. And perhaps the toughest part of all this was that the Bulldogs were going to challenge St. Mary's High — a Division I powerhouse in most sports, including baseball — in the regional championship game the following day.
Those dark clouds turned out to be a good thing for the Bulldogs.
Because of rain, the Turlock-St. Mary's game was canceled Thursday and was rescheduled for 5 p.m. on Tuesday at UOP.
That means Vince Wheeland will be available.
It doesn't mean the Bulldogs have secured an automatic win. But having the Oklahoma State-bound, well-rested senior, who has notched 12 wins this season, undoubtedly gives the Bulldogs a better shot at upsetting the defending regional champion, which will also have its top pitchers ready to go by the time Tuesday rolls around.
At the same time, one-loss Turlock needs to beat St. Mary's — which has beaten all its playoff opponents via the 10-run mercy rule, including a 12-2 stomping over the Bulldogs in the second round — twice in the double-elimination tournament.
“It means a lot to us” to be in the title game, shortstop Kevin Kramer said. “Turlock baseball hasn't been in this for quite awhile. Everybody's rooting for us. We need two wins against a really good St. Mary's team. It's going to be tough, but we have depth and we just have to put things together and hit the ball to see how the ball rolls.”
Turlock's last Section title was in 1997.
To be in this position, the Bulldogs turned to a right-handed freshman pitcher. Voumard didn't act like a rookie, though. He threw a complete game in which he allowed one run and three hits against the Modesto Metro Conference champion.
He felt the pressure.
“You can tell right away from the first pitch,” said Voumard, who spent most of the season at the junior varsity level, “there are more people watching, so it adds to the pressure.”
And this coming from someone who threw his first varsity pitch just a week earlier, one relief inning of work against St. Mary's. He managed to get support from his Turlock teammates immediately, as he said, “I've been treated really well and that's really important to me. I wanted to make sure my teammates have a lot of confidence in me.”
It also helped that the Bulldogs took care of business offensively, with Kramer starting the damage with his second leadoff homer of the tournament in the first inning. It was tied 1-1 until the sixth, when controversy came into play.
Turlock's Ryan Brown walked to first base before attempting to steal second. He was tagged on the play, making it the third out.
But not so fast.
Beyer pitcher Kyle Crawford was called for a balk — by the home plate umpire — while Jeremy McDonald was at the plate, allowing Brown to stay on second. McDonald then slammed a triple to send in Brown, whose Bulldogs later scored another run for the 3-1 lead.
After that, Voumard quickly finished off the Patriots in the top of the seventh inning before rain started pouring.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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