Twenty-six consecutive wins is enough to give any baseball team a heaping dose of confidence. Add two tournament titles, an undefeated league championship campaign, and a talent pool that includes at least six players with college commitments into the mix and it’s easy to understand how Turlock High might be feeling at the moment.
Which came first—the confidence or the success—can be debated, but what can’t be denied is the fact that the Bulldogs have the will, and the ability, to add another title to their mantle—a Division I Sac-Joaquin South Section championship.
Turlock took its first step towards that possibility on Thursday when it met Enochs High at Klein Family Field in Stockton and defeated the Eagles for the third time this season. The second round, 11-5 victory pushed the Bulldogs on to the next round where they will face St. Mary’s High this afternoon.
“Our players' confidence was very high, but now it’s double elimination,” Turlock head coach Mark de la Motte said. “We know we played well and we know we can play better.”
Though the score seems lopsided, Enochs did comparably better in its third matchup with Turlock considering the previous 10-2 and 9-2 losses. The Eagles struck first with a Brandon Pimentel sacrifice bunt that crossed Mike McGhee in the second inning before earning another run in the fourth inning and three more in the fifth. It was the best any team has done against Bulldog ace Tyler Murphy all season.
“He got a little rattled by the tight strike zone. He got a little frustrated, but he’ll overcome that next time,” de la Motte said of Murphy. “When we know we have good pitchers to go to and a solid offense when a pitcher is struggling, it’s good. Our guys have risen to the occasion so far.”
But five earned runs weren’t enough to offset Turlock’s offensive prowess. After tying the game in the bottom of the first inning with a Darren Trainor RBI single, the Bulldogs broke the game open in the third inning with a three-run homer from Austin Bush and a Nick Voumard RBI single. An Adam Groesbeck two-run homer in the fourth inning put Turlock up 7-2, but by their next plate appearance the Bulldogs’ lead was cut to two runs as the scoreboard read 7-5.
Unfazed, Turlock notched a run in the fifth inning on an Enochs error before adding three more runs in the sixth inning and calling it a day. Bush finished three for three from the plate with three RBI’s while Groesbeck finished one for three from the plate with two RBI’s. Murphy pitched six innings and left the mound with six strikeouts, seven hits, and five earned runs.
Enochs managed nine hits, committed two errors, and sent six different pitchers to the hill.
“It was pretty much business as usual. We took advantage of their pitching situation and that was about it,” de la Motte said.
Turlock is one of three Central California Conference teams in the south bracket’s final four. With Buhach Colony and Pitman High facing off after the Turlock game tonight, at least one CCC team is ensured a spot in the tournament final.
“It shows that we played very well this season because there are some very good teams in our league,” de la Motte said. “We were fortunate to beat them before and we’re going to have to do it again.”
Turlock’s game against St. Mary’s will be played at Klein Family Field at the University of Pacific in Stockton and is set to begin at 4 p.m. today.
“They’re good; they’re sound fundamentally,” de la Motte said of the Rams. “They have a really good pitcher and they hit the ball well, so they’re a well rounded team.”