Turlock High won the final game of its three-game series with rival Pitman High Friday afternoon, beating the Pride 8-3 after falling 0-7 on Tuesday and 5-6 on Thursday. But while Pitman walked away from Turlock's home field in the loser's column on Friday, its boys exited the week as winners, at least partially, of the Central California Conference with only one win needed to claim the outright championship.
“We definitely wanted to come in and clinch it outright, but winning yesterday definitely did help alleviate a little bit of pressure,” Pitman head coach John Acha said. “Winning the series is always huge, and it's nice to do that.”
Turlock completed its week long transition from losing to winning convincingly with a strong presence at the plate, particularly from Brandon Booz and Jon Temple who each hit two-run home runs.
“It's pretty hot today. During our pregame batting practice I told them to just take a few swings and get loose and get back in the shade, hoping they'd save a few for the game. And we did,” Turlock head coach Mark de la Motte said. “We needed to play one of the best games of the year and we did.”
Turlock also benefited from a solid pitching performance by Cody Cornell.
“Cornell threw a great game, did a great job, he's a battler. Our guys battled too, we just came up short,” Acha said of Turlock's pitcher.
“In baseball you've got to be so resilient. You have bad at bats, you'll have a bad loss, you won't play well and then you turn around and have a chance to play better,” de la Motte said. “Give them credit, they took the first two, but we really needed this one to get us back on track.”
The Bulldogs took its first lead of the series in the bottom of the second inning when Booze rocked the ball more than 340 feet over the left field fence to cross Alex Pallios and himself. Pitman responded in the top of the third inning with a Colton Evans RBI single that crossed Matt Carrigg and a Daren Finney RBI single that crossed Todd Jones and tied the game 2-2.
Turlock retook the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning with Temple's two-run homer that also went over the left field fence before extending its lead in the bottom of the fifth with RBI singles from Bubba Moreno and Tate Soderstrom. Pallios provided the final two runs for the Bulldogs with a 2RBI single in the bottom of the sixth before Pitman scored its final run in the top of the seventh inning with two outs off a RBI triple from Evans.
Turlock's win denied Pitman a chance to clinch the CCC outright, but with only one win needed and only two games remaining on the season the Pride are still jubilant in knowing they'll soon be called CCC champions for the first time since entering the league.
“It feels good. These boys here deserve it. They're good ball players just like the guys across town,” Acha said. “Turlock the last couple of years has been pretty dominant and we've been right there on their heels, so it feels good to finally get a little bit of that.”
Pitman's final two games will be played against Golden Valley High with a road game on Tuesday and a home game on Wednesday.
“Golden Valley, you can't take them lightly,” Acha said. “We're going to go into practice full steam ahead on Monday and prepare for them.”
The Bulldogs, who failed to win the CCC after winning the title back-to-back the last two seasons, are now playing to keep their playoff fate in their own hands, needing to win out against Buhach Colony High to make a playoff berth official.
“At this point we want to finish strong and get in. And once you're in, anything can happen,” de la Motte said.
Turlock hosts the Thunder on Tuesday before playing its final game of the season on the road on Wednesday.