It was win or go home for the No. 4 Turlock Christian varsity baseball team in Tuesday's semifinal meeting with No. 1 Valley Christian in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-VII bracket.
Fresh off a one-run loss on Saturday to VC in the best of a three-game series, TC was looking to push the momentum into their second meeting for a win.
TC needed two wins while VC just had to capture one victory to clinch a spot in the final, but in the end the Eagles made crucial mistakes when it counted and they fell 9-4, getting swept in two games by last year's Section winners.
“Just mental mistakes, we came into the series and I am pretty sure everybody was thinking that the No. 4 seed stood no chance and that was not the case,” said TC head coach James Burbank. “We definitely had our chances to win, great teams take advantage of those situations and we just didn't.”
The Eagles went up early after tacking on the first runs of the ball game when Markie Delgadillo leveled a two-run triple to make it 2-0 after the first inning had concluded.
Starting pitcher Liam Jones of TC was able to keep the VC batters off the board after two strong innings.
VC finally got on the board in the top of the third to cut the lead to 2-1.
Two runs were added in the fourth by VC to go up 3-2, but before the inning was done, Delgadillo was subbed in for Jones who finished the game with 3 and 2/3 innings.
“None of these kids have ever been in the playoffs before and I thought getting the first game out of the way would get the jitters out, but they are teenagers and sometimes mistakes happen,” said Burbank.
TC ended the game with two errors while VC had three, but the two errors cost the Eagles significantly.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jones led off the game with what seemed like a triple, only he stutter stepped back to second in front of the shortstop. The second guess gave the outfielder enough time for the throw out at third base.
“We had a base runner getting thrown out at third where he should have easily been safe,” said Burbank of the miscues running the bases. “We had a missed play fly ball in the left field that cost us some runs, just the little things that great baseball teams take advantage of, but some teams can't get away with that.”
TC played a team that was used to countering and responding in uncomfortable situations and they did so once more.
VC continued their aggressive ability by scoring two more runs in the sixth and four in the seventh against the Eagles of TC.
TC scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth, but left bases loaded and in the seventh they were shutout.
“Coming into the seventh inning, including Saturday's game, we were fighting and we were in it, but their coach gave us all the credit and said he will see us next year,” said Burbank. “Valley Christian is a great team but we competed, everyone knows our name now.”
The Eagles had nine hits for the game to the Lions’ 10.
TC concludes the season with a winning record for the first time since 2010.
“I am absolutely satisfied, the kids had a great year, they went about it all tremendously, and have been great representatives of what Turlock Christian baseball is all about,” said Burbank. “Like I told the team, we met all of our goals this year — our goal was to take a step forward since last year we were one game out of the playoffs.”
TC ends the year with an overall record of 12-7-1 and a playoff victory for the first time since 2006.