STOCKTON — They’ve been in tight situations before, so the Turlock High baseball players didn’t carry worried faces after falling 6-0 to St. Mary’s High on Monday afternoon in the opening of the double-elimination portion of the Division I South Tournament at Klein Family Field on the University of Pacific campus. Though another loss means the season would be over for the Bulldogs, the fact didn’t seem to concern them much.
“I think we’re a good bounce-back team,” Turlock senior shortstop Kevin Kramer said.
This stage of bouncing back starts today at 4 p.m. at Klein Family Field, where the Bulldogs are set to again face Lincoln High of Stockton — which beat them in nonconference action earlier this season — in the consolation bracket of the postseason tournament. In order to capture the regional title, Turlock will need to win four straight games — including back-to-back triumphs over reigning champion St. Mary’s in the final, if it gets that far.
Sophomore Nick Voumard is expected to pitch for the Bulldogs.
On Monday, the Rams produced three runs in the second inning and two more in the third before adding the final score in the fifth.
Turlock coach Mark de la Motte believes his team is in a good spot. Sure, his Bulldogs (22-7 overall) were shut out for just the second time this season on Monday in a rematch of last season’s tournament final, but he acknowledged that they slammed the ball throughout the afternoon and put runners in scoring position. He also acknowledged that because starter Jeremy McDonald pitched a complete game that saw him giving up a season-high six runs on seven hits, the Bulldogs will have a well-rested bullpen if they churn out a heroic trek through the consolation bracket and beyond.
“I think we can,” de la Motte said about returning to the regional final. “We’ve got the offense. Our pitchers are fresh. That’s big. To go all the way back, you gotta win four games. That’s a relief. We’ve been working all year to have that kind of depth. We’re going to need everybody.”
Turlock had a couple scoring chances in the third inning, when Kramer stepped to his at-bat with runners in scoring position and one out against St. Mary’s 6-foot-6 pitcher Michael Hager. But Kramer struck out. And later, James Heller popped out to center field with the bases loaded.
“We had the ball in the air," said catcher Ryan Brown, who went 2 for 4. “We had four ground balls; two of them we got errors on. We need to hit more ground balls and make them do a play. With ground balls, you have to field and catch. With fly balls, you just have to catch.”
It’s time to move on.
In the regular season, the Bulldogs experienced a couple setbacks. After losing 4-3 to Merced High on March 22, they assumed an eight-game winning surge. And after losing three consecutive league contests in mid-April, they quickly bounced back by winning the Willie Stargell Easter Classic during their spring break over some of the Bay Area’s best teams.
The latter run encouraged a strong push to capture back-to-back Central California Conference titles — though this time with Merced, which won its game against Lincoln to advance on and face St. Mary’s today at 7 p.m. in the winner’s bracket game.
Moral of the story: Don’t count out the Bulldogs.
“We only went through one rough patch this year,” said Kramer, the Turlock shortstop whose next competitive stop is UCLA. “We came back and made a long push. I think we’ll do well. We faced all three of these teams that are in this bracket, so there are no surprises in what we need to do. We need to hit the ball, we need to pitch well. We need to play solid defense. We just need to play baseball.
“I think we’ll be good to go after this.”
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