STOCKTON — On his second pitch of the game, Turlock High ace Vince Wheeland was reminded that opposing batters aren't afraid of someone with an undefeated record and a baseball scholarship to Oklahoma State. Lincoln High's Tyler Sullivan was the first to prove this in Monday's only consolation game of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament, as he smacked the ball above Wheeland's reach, which sparked a two-run rally at the top of the first inning.
“I knew I had to work the whole game,” he said. “It was going to be a tough one.”
Wheeland and the Bulldogs didn't falter much after that, considering they racked up nine runs in the third and sixth innings to win 10-4 at Family Klein Field at the University of Pacific. They're just one win away from the championship game, though they will have to go through Beyer High first in the losers' bracket final today at 7 p.m.
Awaiting the winner is St. Mary's High of Stockton, which has won all three of its playoff games via the 10-run mercy rule, including a 12-2 thumping of the Bulldogs last week in the second round of the championship rounds.
If Turlock beats Beyer, the title game will be at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Bulldogs coach Mark de la Motte was unsure after Monday's game who he was going to start on the mound against Beyer, though his options include Dylan Silva, David Herrera and Jeremy McDonald, who started against St. Mary's on Friday.
And Wheeland still has nine outs to go, considering pitchers are allowed 30 per week and he went through 21 outs on Monday.
Against Lincoln, Wheeland was once again productive in more than one way. In scattering six hits and securing a 12-0 record, the senior also slammed out a two-run homer to centerfield that covered more than 405 feet in Turlock's final plate appearance.
By then, the Bulldogs were well ahead. They scored five runs on four hits and one error in the third inning for a 6-2 lead, enough to provide Wheeland with some confidence once he got back on the mound.
“It wasn't the nerves,” catcher Ryan Brown said of Wheeland's early game struggles. “He doesn't get nervous at all. He just had a rough outing.”
After allowing two runs in the first, Wheeland saw no more than five batters in the following innings.
The Bulldogs were quite active at the plate. Four players issued at least two hits, with Kevin Kramer finishing with a double, triple and two RBIs, Ryan Flood going 2-for-4, James Heller finishing 2-for-4 with two doubles and Wheeland hitting 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs.
Lincoln did score two runs in the seventh, but they were meaningless by that point.
“We relaxed and played well after that,” de la Motte said about Turlock producing five runs in the third. “That gave us a chance to relax and just play, instead of trying to do too much — like you try to do in a big game. I'm really proud of these guys and how they came out and played hard.”
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