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Bulldogs snap Pride win streak in first crosstown meeting
Turlock baseball 1
Josh Ramirez slides into home and scores for the Bulldogs during the game against Pitman on Monday afternoon. Ramirez drove in three runs with a triple a few plays before helping Turlock win 11-2 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The Pride of Pitman High are undefeated in league play no more in 2023, as they suffered their first loss at the hands of a familiar foe – the Turlock High Bulldogs.

In their first meeting of the season, the 7-2 Bulldogs dominated their crosstown rivals, who were 6-0 in Central California Athletic League competition. The Turlock squad rode the dominant pitching of senior southpaw Payton Hawkinson and the timely hitting of Josh Ramirez and Sean Clark to an 11-2 victory on Monday afternoon at Mark de la Motte Field on the grounds of Turlock High School.

Turlock v Pitman baseball
Turlock's Mason Baker beats Daniel Mazon back to 2nd base during the cross-town rival game against Pitman Monday afternoon (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Though it seemed as if the game was headed towards a pitchers’ dual after quick scoreless first innings from Hawkinson and Pitman starter Brandon Leon, things slowly turned in favor of the home team. The Bulldogs struck first in the bottom of the second inning with a sac-fly from Tyler Castro. The very next inning, an RBI single from Carson Gonzales and a two RBI triple from Clark gave Turlock a 4-0 lead.

With some breathing room, Hawkinson was able to maneuver through a few command issues in the fifth inning, where he gave up two runs after surrendering a walk and a pair of singles.

“All my pitches were working really well. I got into a few jams, but I trusted my stuff, trusted my defense and it worked out,” Hawkinson said.

To Hawkinson’s delight, in the bottom half of the inning the offense picked up right where they left off, with Ramirez driving a ball to the fence in left center field to clear the bases with a triple, making it 8-2 and blowing the game open.

“I was looking for my pitch, that low middle-in pitch. I just wanted to put it out there and help my team out,” Ramirez said.

The 6-foot-7 Hawkinson continued to trust his fastball-curveball-slider combination for the remainder of his outing, striking out eight batters and surrendering two hits and six walks over six innings pitched.

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Turlock's Payton Hawkinson pitches against Pitman during the cross-town rival game Monday afternoon (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

“Our mindset was to just come in and beat them, have confidence coming in. A win like this builds momentum,” Hawkinson said.

“Momentum” was also one of the first words out of the mouth of Turlock head coach Mike Souza after Monday’s game, as the Bulldogs have now won eight straight games.

“A win like this feels good. We’ve got the momentum and we’re going in the right direction, but that’s just game one, and we have two more games to keep this high going and this train going in the right direction,” Souza said. “But Wednesday is a new day. It’s baseball and anything can happen.”

With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 8-2 in CCAL play while the Pride drop to 6-1. With Pitman having played three fewer games because of wet weather postponements last month, the Pride remain in first place with a win percentage of .812 compared to Turlock’s .800.

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Christian Jacinto scores for the Pride during the cross-town rival game against Turlock Monday afternoon (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

As Souza referred to, game two of the series between Turlock and Pitman will be on Wednesday at the Pitman High ballfield, with Gonzales slated to take the bump for the Bulldogs against Fresno State-bound Andrew Balentine. Game three will see the two teams transition back to Mark de la Motte Field on Friday for a pitching matchup between Bubba Lujan for Turlock and Drew Walker for Pitman. First pitch for both games is scheduled for 4 p.m.