Turlock High was out to a good start on Thursday when they traveled to Merced High to face the conference leading Bears (9-3 CCC). The Bulldogs (6-6 CCC) scored twice in the beginning of the first inning and looked to be on their way to collecting more runs with no outs and the bases loaded. Unfortunately for Turlock, Merced’s defense held strong in the first inning and its offense showcased its tenacity in the second and third innings, paving the way for a tight 10-9 victory.
Thursday’s matchup was the second time in the week that Turlock faced a first place Central California Conference team. On Tuesday the Bulldogs defeated Buhach Colony High (8-4 CCC).
“It’s frustrating,” Turlock’s head coach Mark de la Motte said. “We could have got them both in one week.”
After their first inning of missed opportunities the Bulldogs found themselves struggling on defense as Nick Voumard’s lack of control from the hill allowed a Merced run in the first and prompted de la Motte to make a pitching change. Brent Backlund stepped in for Turlock in the second inning but after Tuesday’s 13 inning game with the Thunder he was left with fumes in the tank. The Bears proceeded to score four runs in the second inning and five more in the third, taking an early 10-2 lead.
“That first inning really hurt,” de la Motte said. “We could have broken the game open.”
Turlock bounced back in the fourth inning with a three-run effort and a defensive stand in the fifth and sixth innings. The seventh inning looked to be a time of redemption for the Bulldogs who scored three more runs and had the tying run on third. The comeback never happened, though, as Turlock’s would-be savior was left on base and Merced became the sole first place team in the CCC.
“It was just one of those days,” de la Motte said.
Had Turlock defeated the Bears, the Bulldogs would have been tied with Pitman High (7-5 CCC) one game behind both Buhach and Merced. Instead, Turlock now sits in fourth place with little chance at competing for the league title.
With three conference games left in the season Turlock is now chasing the third playoff spot. While the Bulldog players were disappointed with Thursday’s outcome they were not discouraged, which has de la Motte enthusiastic about their upcoming matchups. Turlock’s next game will be at home against Golden Valley High (2-10 CCC).
“We have to take care of business on Tuesday,” de la Motte said. “We’ll bounce back.”