The two-game series between Pitman and Turlock high varsity baseball teams on Wednesday and Friday was critical.
First, the Bulldogs of Turlock topped Pitman on Wednesday after an 8-5 victory from Stanislaus’ Warrior Baseball Field, which then set-up a three-way tie between the two crosstown rivals and Buhach Colony heading into the end of the week’s matchup.
Then on Friday, the Pride went past the Bulldogs in the league standings after a dominant performance from starting pitcher Brett Hagen who went the distance, and they held off their rivals in a close 3-1 decision to tie with BC for first with just two games remaining.
“It’s another game and you have to play like that and I think our guys did, our kids were relaxed and competing and I think our mindset helped the way we handled ourselves,” said Pitman head coach Andy Walker. “We’ve been telling them all year, every game is big, and you have to focus on the task at hand, but this is just like every other game although we knew the significance of this game.”
The Pride are currently tied with BC for first place in the Central California Conference with an 8-2 record apiece.
Turlock is sitting in third with a 7-3 record after the loss.
“Big game for both teams, three-way tie for first with three to go heading into this game,” said Turlock head coach Mark de la Motte. “There’s two more games, it was a big game… their guy pitched great till the end and we couldn’t get him, but it’s not the end of the world.”
Friday’s pace and offensive output was slower than their first meeting in the middle of the week.
In Wednesday’s game, both teams combined for half a dozen errors while there were 13 runs scored total.
Friday was a little different.
The errors were limited, while pitching was the story.
Turlock’s Alex Garcia started for the ‘Dogs and went six innings.
The first run of the game didn’t come until the bottom of the fourth inning when sophomore Kade Morris smacked an RBI double to make it 1-0 after Marcus Garza made his way from second to home.
Hagen of Pitman went on to toss all seven innings.
Hagen faced 29 batters for the game and finished with 102 pitches thrown as he allowed no earned runs on five hits, one walk and struck out five.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and he is a gamer,” said Walker about Hagen. “You want a guy in that situation that wants the rock and he does want it, he embraces the moment where others have a tough time. (It was) a gutsy performance and he pitched real well overall, executed his game plan and it showed. It’s obviously hard to shut out that lineup and he did. So great job, very proud of him.”
He kept it steady and his offense added some security runs in the bottom of the sixth when Nick Tullio leveled a pitch deep over the center fielder’s head and all the way to the fence to stretch it to a two-run triple to make it 3-0.
Turlock scored a run on an error in the top of the seventh, but Hagen was able to get the fly out to end the game.
Pitman has won four of its last five games.
“We have to approach it like that and play the right way and play how we’ve been coached and don’t get caught up in the moment and embrace it,” said Walker. “…we are capable of playing against everybody if we play how we are capable of and today we did that, great pitching, pretty good defense and timely hits which made a big difference there.”
The Pride has their work cut out for them when they face Buhach Colony for the CCC title.
“Every game is tough, our priority is Monday, like I said earlier if we play our game I like our chances,” Walker added. “I don’t think a lot of people expected us to be here, but we are because they believe in themselves and they believe in us and we believe in them and that is all that really matters right now with two games. We have to find a way to do it, but I like our odds.”
Turlock is now playing for a chance at a playoff berth, as the top three teams will move into the postseason.
“All you can do is control your own destiny … if we take care of business we will be right there, if not, who knows,” de la Motte added. “We’ve got two days to get over it, top three teams go to playoffs, which is the format this year, a little different but we have to get over it and bounce back, it’s not the last game of the season.”
The Pride will take on the Thunder on the road at 4 p.m. Monday.
Turlock will travel to Atwater High to take on the Falcons at 4 p.m. Monday.