The past two years have been Turlock baseball's time to shine and Thursday's Division I CIF Sac-Joaquin Section round two playoff game against Lodi was no exception. Despite a rocky start on the mound, the Bulldogs pulled off a 9-3 win over the Flames, securing a spot in the quarterfinals.
Blake Cederlind started on the mound for the ‘Dogs, but after walking five in the first one and 2/3 innings and allowing three runs, the right-handed senior was subbed out and Nick Gonzales came in to relieve as he tossed up 5 and 1/3 innings and allowed no runs on three hits to pick up the win.
The win would not have been possible without the help of the offense that produced over 11 hits for the game and as a team, scored at least a run in all but one inning (sixth).
“Blake struggled and we haven’t pitched like that all year long, a little jitters and nerves with hitting the strike zone but our offense did it for us again tonight,” Turlock head coach Mark de la Motte said. “Nick [Gonzales] came in and pitched well. It was huge getting over five innings of work, it did well for us.”
With the win, the Bulldogs put themselves in a double elimination situation, which means even if they lose to St. Mary’s in the quarterfinal they will be able to compete — but with little room for error.
This year's offense looks capable of redeeming the Bulldogs' record against the Rams, as previous encounters have been unsuccessful. In three out of the last four years, Turlock has lost to St. Mary’s in the postseason — making them 0-3 against the Rams in elimination games.
“We are a little bit deeper offensively than last year, because we had very good pitching and defense last year,” de la Motte said. “Our guys got their nerves out of the way and now we will play anybody, bring them on.”
Thursday's game against Lodi started out Turlock’s way despite the early struggles on the mound, with a heavy load of the bats in the bottom of the first when Alex Palios’ RBI double scored Brett Cumberland to go up 1-0.
Two at-bats later, sophomore standout Jon Temple cracked the game wide open after smacking a two-run homer over the left field wall to take a 3-0 lead. This seemed to really get the offense on a rally because a fourth run was added before the inning ended.
After a shaky second inning where Lodi managed to pull within one to make it 4-3, the Bulldogs struck with another run in the bottom half when Austin Bush drove one deep to the opposite field with an RBI double to score Palios.
One run innings came in the third and the fourth, but in the fifth things got out of hand.
Two more runs were tacked on with a Palios score after a throwing error by Lodi allowed him to walk in from third base while Gavin Gaffaney’s RBI single drove in Temple for the ninth and final score of the game.
“This year we tacked on a run nearly every inning, it's sweet,” said de la Motte. “The guys lit it up because they [Lodi] threw two lefties and I throw lefties in batting practice so they just light that stuff up.”
Brian Mendez came in to close out the game in the top of the seventh as he went three-up and three-down to retire the side and crush Lodi’s postseason aspirations.
Turlock will now move on to the quarterfinals in the South bracket against St. Mary’s of Stockton at University of Pacific at 7 p.m. on Monday.
“We have played them [St. Mary’s] and it has even come down to the sub section finals and we have come up short,” de la Motte said.