Playoffs, St. Mary's High and heart break. It's a familiar formula for Turlock High baseball.
Over the past five years the Bulldogs and Rams have become familiar foes in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament, often facing each other in the championship game. On Thursday, Turlock and St. Mary's again clashed on Klien Family Field at the University of Pacific, and while the showdown came about in the second round instead of the latter stages of the tournament the outcome was similar to years past — heartbreak for Turlock in the form of a 2-3 loss.
The loss itself wasn't crushing, however, it was the way it happened. After jumping onto the scoreboard early and holding a 2-0 lead for most of the game, the Bulldogs faltered in the bottom of the seventh inning and were eliminated with a comeback from the Rams.
“Somehow they scrapped it together,” Turlock head coach Mark de la Motte said of St. Mary's. “We had them on the ropes and couldn't knock them out.”
A Tate Soderstrom solo home run in the top of the second inning put Turlock up 1-0. Three innings later, in the top of the fifth, Brandon Booz extended his team's lead with a RBI single that crossed Alex Pallios and put the momentum in Turlock's hands.
“That was a shot in the arm, that's for sure. We kind of had them on their heels,” de la Motte said of his team's offensive output.
But it wasn't just Turlock's bats that momentarily stunned St. Mary's, instead the Bulldogs' biggest weapon on Thursday was Marcus Lopez and his arm. Equipped with his curve ball and a change-up pitch, and with accurate location, Lopez allowed only two hits and struck out six batters through the first six innings.
“He really pitched the game of his life, we just couldn't get him another run or two,” de la Motte said of his pitcher.
Considering the type of game he was playing de la Motte decided to let Lopez see the game through, but things quickly changed for the worse in the seventh. After allowing a single, walking two batters and getting an out on a sacrifice bunt, Lopez allowed his first run of the day on a fly ball into left field that made it 2-1. Then St. Mary's Nick Uota stepped up to the plate and hit a walk-off 2RBI single, putting the ball just over the head of Turlock's second baseman and ensuring his team had a place in the upcoming quarterfinals of the SJS DI South Championships.
“Just like that, they score three runs and we go home,” de lat Motte said.
“We decided it was going to be his game to win or lose,” he added about Lopez.
The loss marked the eighth time in ten games that the Rams have ended Turlock's season in the playoffs. St. Mary's will now face the Bulldogs of Tracy High on Monday.