When Turlock and Pitman High played their final Central California Conference game on May 8 the two rivals thought it would be the last time they would see each other on the baseball diamond until next year.
Turns out they were wrong.
After four rounds of firsts in the Division I Sac-Joaquin South Section tournament—the first time four CCC teams made it to the final four and Turlock’s first loss in 26 games—the cross-town rivals found themselves facing off once again for the chance to play St. Mary’s High in today’s championship game.
As was the case through the regular season, the Bulldogs put in a winning performance against the Pride with a combination of opportunistic batting and consistent pitching. The final score read 5-0.
It didn’t take long for Turlock to snatch the game’s momentum away from the Pride. Back to back home runs from Adam Groesbeck and Brett Cumberland in the first inning put the Bulldogs up 2-0 and forced Pitman to play catch-up. When Turlock wasn’t frustrating pitcher Trevor Chaney from the plate, Tyler Murphy was busy harassing Pride batters with his arm from the mound.
Murphy dispatched batter after batter, 13 to be exact, through a complete seven innings en route to a no hitter. He threw 96 pitches in total.
“It feels great. Tyler pitched a great ball game and we got him some runs,” Turlock head coach Mark de la Motte said. “With that big first inning, Adam and Cumberland’s home runs into the jet stream, it was game over with the way he was pitching.”
Turlock tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning off a Darren Trainor RBI single and a a hit by pitch with bases loaded that advanced Nick Voumard to first and crossed pinch hitter Nick Benson. Turlock’s final run came in the fifth when Trainor hit his second RBI single with the bases loaded against Brennan Hauser—Chaney was forced to leave the game after a line drive hit injured his throwing hand.
“At the beginning of the year you want to go for a championship, you want to make that playoff run. We had our ups and downs but we’re making progress every week,” Pitman head coach John Acha said. “By the end of the year the guys all bought in and were working hard for each other and that’s how we were able to make this run.”
Chaney pitched five innings and finished with four allowed hits, four earned runs, six strike outs, and three walks.
The Bulldogs must now defeat the Rams twice today in order to claim the DI South Section title. The game will be played at Klein Family Field at the University of Pacific in Stockton at 4p.m., with the second game being played at 7p.m. if necessary.
“We’re going to get their number one pretty quick, so we just got to be relaxed and play,” de la Motte said. “We were uptight against them the other day and we were tight against Buhach, but the guys were relaxed today. We just have to go after the first game and not worry about the second game.”
The Bulldogs' road to the semis
After enjoying a first round bye and defeating Enochs High in the second round of playoffs, Turlock High experienced something they hadn’t gone through in nearly three months—a loss.
The Bulldogs’ 26 game win-streak was snapped at the hands of St. Mary’s High on Saturday as a failed comeback resulted in a 4-6 loss. The Rams, who have a long history of eliminating Turlock from the playoffs, jumped on Turlock early, taking advantage of a rusty Nick Voumard with three first-inning runs.
“They knew they would be good. The road to the section final goes through St. Mary’s,” de la Motte said. “We battled back and just couldn’t catch them.”
Turlock took the lead in the top of the fifth inning only to watch the Rams reclaim it in the bottom of the fifth and extend it in the sixth inning. With the scoreboard reading 6-3, Turlock attempted a last ditch comeback but only managed one run before being foiled and sent to the losers' bracket.
“They weren’t used to it; they were shocked,” de la Motte said of the loss. “But they had a couple days to think it out and bounce back, and we did.”
Turlock’s retribution came two days later at the hands of Buhach Colony High. As was the case on Saturday, Turlock fell behind early in the game, bounced back and erased the lead in the top of the fifth inning, and watched as the Thunder scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth and one more in the sixth.
Turlock had a different ending in mind for Monday’s game, however. After a Jacob Garcia brought the Bulldogs within two runs of the Thunder, a combination of defensive errors and luck paved the way for an exciting comeback. After a Gavin Gaffaney single on a full count loaded the bases, Darren Trainor stepped up to the plate and hit a ground ball just over the glove of Buhach’s Daulton Jefferies. As the ball traveled past the pitcher, the Thunder’s second baseman snatched the ball with plans to tag out a sliding Voumard and end the game—but his glove fell off. The game was tied, 4-4.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Cameron Matsumura hit a suicide bunt down the third base line and drove in the winning score.
“That win says a lot about our seniors. They’ve been through a lot and they’re resilient,” de la Motte said.
The 5-4 victory set up Tuesday’s do-or-die semi-final match against league and cross-town rival Pitman High.
“Who would have thought it would come down to this at the beginning of the year. They’re hot and peaking at the right time, and hopefully we are, too,” de la Motte said before Tuesday’s game.
The Pride's bounce back season
They were the underdogs entering the Division I tournament, and many expected them to not make it past the first round. But Pitman High’s baseball team made its mark with three consecutive wins over Tokay, Beyer and Buhach Colony High in the first, second and third rounds of the playoffs.
On Saturday, the Pride took on the Thunder in a close 5-4 victory. The Thunder took a quick 1-0 start in the first, but the Pride jumped to a 4-1 lead in the third inning and never looked back as they knocked Buhach Colony out of the playoffs. This was Pitman’s fifth win in the last six games and third straight win.
“Buhach had our number all year and really did a good job keeping us off the scoreboard because they jumped early on us,” Pitman head coach John Acha said. “But we came back with some big hits in the third.”
Derek Finney started and tossed 3 2/3 innings and struck out five, allowed only two hits and walked two. Matt Carrigg came in the fourth with two outs to relieve Finney and pitched 1 2/3, allowed 3 hits and no runs. Jordan Gonzalez closed the game and threw 1 2/3 innings with two strike outs and gave up a run that came in with one out in the sixth.
“The lead gave us a comfort zone to relax a little bit and it was tight at that point, we let our pitchers relax and not have to worry about every pitch,” Acha said. “We knew all along and all year that we could compete with them, but lately the confidence our players have had is big. I think confidence is huge and it has helped us the last few weeks.”
Kody Brackett led off the third inning with a solo home-run. Then with the bases loaded in the first, a balk scored Spillers for the second run. Trevor Chaney then had a double off the left field wall to score Carrigg and Brennan Houser to score the four unanswered runs.
“Our pitching came through today, we knew we would have to throw a few different guys, our starter gave us some strong innings,” Acha said. “Pitching and hitting has been big for us these last few weeks.”
In Monday’s matchup against St. Mary’s, Pitman high jumped to a quick 1-0 lead after the first inning. The Pride’s hot start continued the following inning after they scored another five unanswered runs to take the 6-0 lead going into the bottom of the second. However the Rams scored their first run and cut the lead to 6-1. Three errors and three runs later, Pitman’s lead had been cut down to 6-5 after Jordan Gonzalez’ shaky inning. The Pride still led going into the sixth, but that all changed after the bottom of the inning, St. Mary’s drew in another three runs to take the 8-6 lead. Eight unanswered runs from the Rams as they never looked back and will move on to the South Div. I SJS championship game.
“The kids were battling, at the beginning he (Jordan Gonzalez) got behind a few times, but the pitch count was eating away and we took him out after the 4th inning,” Acha said. “Errors followed by walks hurt us. They showed really good poise in coming back.”
“[It's] a different team now than we were before and playing very confident especially knowing we had St. Mary's on the wall,” Acha said before Tuesday's game. “We can compete with anybody.”