Andy Walker will never forget his first year as head coach for the Pitman Pride varsity baseball team.
His team, which had less than half a dozen returners from a year ago, came together and enjoyed one of the more memorable years, splitting the Central California Conference honors in the final year competing in that league.
They also reached the quarterfinals in the Division-II Sac-Joaquin Section bracket, traveling to Granite Bay before falling in a close match, 6-2.
“It was huge... those unearned runs,” said Walker about the three unearned runs scored by GB. “We knew we had to elevate our game, we knew that in order to come down here and take a game we had to play real clean baseball and unfortunately we didn’t. It doesn’t take anything away from what they did all season, we are proud of what they did, but just today wasn’t our day.”
Pitman, along with Turlock and Buhach Colony, finished CCC play with a record of 9-3 each. All three were crowned the co-champions.
We have good kids who are willing to work hard, they are scrappy and gritty, and we think our future looks real bright.Coach Andy Walker
The Pride also rode the CCC Most Valuable Player Brett Hagen into the postseason after he tossed two complete games, earning victories in both, including their first-round victory against Tracy on Tuesday that ended 1-0.
The team then started their other senior who had been consistent all season long in Tyler Stout.
Stout ended up tossing 2 and ⅓ inning before Ronnie Rodin came in and shut down the Grizzlies offense in the final 3 and ⅔ innings pitched.
“Ronnie was huge, he came in and he pounded the strike zone and pitched zeros for three-plus innings,” said Walker. “He was big today and he has had moments like that throughout the year and especially being a senior, it was great to see him come out and finish off strong. He won’t have any regrets, he did exactly what he needed to do and gave his team a chance and unfortunately we didn’t get anything back.”
In the bottom of the first, GB notched a pair of runs after a dropped ball in center field, with two outs, allowed two runs to cross home plate.
Immediately Pitman responded in the top of the second and started to get the timing of GB starting pitcher Zach Taylor.
Pitman added a pair of runs when Mac Cabero drilled a two-run double to deep left center that made the score even at 2-2.
GB added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth, including one unearned.
They scored two more in the third and won by four.
“The unearned runs come back to get you,” said Walker. “We came a long way as a team, we just fell short at the end of the day today, frustrating we could have been there, just didn’t get it done.”
Pitman is expected to return a bulk of their squad for 2019, pending any offseason changes.
“I am real excited for our future,” Walker added. “I believe all of our three level teams went into the last week with a chance to win league so you can’t really ask for anything better than that, to at least have that opportunity, our younger levels fell a little short, but the fact that they were there, we have good kids who are willing to work hard, they are scrappy and gritty, and we think our future looks real bright.”