On Wednesday, Turlock High senior shortstop Kevin Kramer came into his team’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South Tournament game against Downey High as, essentially, an emergency backup. He didn’t flinch, eventually pitching 1 1/3 solid innings to save the Bulldogs from committing an epic blunder and win 10-8 at Klein Family Field at the University of Pacific in Stockton.
At one point in the game, the Bulldogs were ahead 9-0. So imagine the relief they had after Kramer managed to induce Downey’s final batter into a pop fly, sending his team to the double-elimination round of the postseason.
Is the hard part over?
Not at all.
The Bulldogs face defending Section champion St. Mary’s High of Stockton on Monday at 4 p.m. at UOP. It’s a rematch of last season’s regional final game, which the Rams won 18-4. This is a different St. Mary’s team, however. The Rams (19-9 overall) lost a few key players to graduation, including current Cal pitcher/outfielder Louie Lechich.
“They’re definitely beatable,” said Jeremy McDonald, who will be Monday’s hurler for the Bulldogs (22-6 overall). “There’s definitely some pressure on the line, but I’m going in there just like any other game. That’s what I was told to do. I’m not going to put pressure on myself.”
He owns an 8-1 record, with his only loss coming against Buhach Colony High during the Bulldogs’ back-to-back Central California Conference co-championship campaign with Merced High. He led his team to a 7-0 win in the postseason opener against Lodi High.
The Bulldogs looked like they were headed for another shutout Wednesday, but, coach Mark de la Motte said, his starting pitcher, sophomore Nick Voumard, got tired against Downey before Dylan Silva came in the fifth inning. And soon after, Kramer — he had less than five innings of pitching before the game — went in for the save.
Now, it’s time to face the Rams.
“I think they have fewer weapons,” Kramer said about this year’s St. Mary’s team to the one before. “Their two top pitchers are gone now. But with St. Mary’s, you gotta understand that even with guys leaving, there’s still a lot of key guys returning. They have a quality team. But I think we do too.”
This Turlock squad carries nine seniors, along with a group of underclassmen who contributed to last season’s success. In other words, the Bulldogs are well-experienced, and de la Motte likes his team’s chances against St. Mary’s.
“They’re everybody’s favorite to win it,” he said about the Rams. “They have a lot of guys from last year, like we do. They hit real well and they pitch really well. It’ll be a challenge, but our guys have been looking forward to this since last year.”
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