Turlock Christian senior Gavin Farinha stepped from the third-base dugout and made his way to the postgame handshake line following his first loss as a high school pitcher.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound college-bound southpaw was on the wrong end of a tough-luck, 4-1 loss to Turlock High during Tuesday’s second round of the annual Mark Dickens Invitational Tournament in Oakdale.
But instead of hanging his head or kicking dirt, the Master’s University signee turned to a teammate and with a bright smile said, “Hey, I got a hit off a Fullerton commit today.”
He did indeed. It was a double in the fourth inning off Bulldogs starter Payton Hawkinson — another lefty — who just happens to be Farinha’s best friend and headed to pitch collegiately next season at Cal State Fullerton.
“It was so fun,” said Farinha, who was 12-0 last season and led the nation with six no-hitters, was third in the country with 155 strikeouts, and was one of 12 pitchers nationally to not allow an earned run. “Payton was at my house late last night and we were talking about how fun it was going to be. Win or lose, it was going to be fun.”
It was just a smidge more fun for the Division I Bulldogs (10-7), who had not much to gain and everything to lose by taking on the previously undefeated Eagles (12-1), who compete in the Division VII playoffs.
“We came out here and acted like it was just another game,” said the 6-foot-7, 235-pound Hawkinson. “No matter who we’re playing, we just want to win and we want to compete. We want to come out and pitch well, hit well and play good defense. We treated them just like any other team.”
But the Eagles aren’t just any other team. They entered the game having won 21 of their previous 22 games, including the 2022 Sac-Joaquin Section D-VII championship.
Through six innings Tuesday, Turlock Christian, a school with barely 100 students, was the equal of mighty Turlock, which has an enrollment close to close to 2,700.
With the score tied 1-1 heading into the seventh, Farinha was working on a one-hitter. He was perfect into the fifth inning and fanned seven of nine Bulldogs his first time through the order. But he plunked Carson Gonzales to lead off the seventh, before Owen Miller reached on an error.
Farinha then fanned the next two hitters and was poised to escape the jam before junior Carter Crivelli strode to the plate.
Crivelli, a .310 hitter entering the contest, was 0-for-2 to that point and had whiffed on a back-door slider in the fifth.
“I was really nervous, because I’d struck out my previous at-bat with a runner on third,” said Crivelli. “He was having a little trouble locating his fastball and he was making us look silly with his off-speed pitches, so I was laying for that slider again.”
Crivelli got the slider and hit it up the middle, plating Gonzales with the go-ahead run.
The next batter, Andrew Lujan, hit an opposite-field triple to right that produced two more runs, and Farinha’s day was done. He gave way to sophomore righty Xavier Ruezega.
All told, Farinha pitched 6 2/3 innings, fanning 14 while yielding three hits. For the season, he’s now 5-1 in six starts with an ERA of 0.21 with 65 strikeouts and just 14 hits allowed in 33 2/3 innings pitched.
“He was probably the best pitcher we’ve faced all year,” said Turlock head coach Mike Souza. “He’s legit. But we were able to get his pitch count up and started making better contact the second and third time through the order.”
Crivelli also thought Farinha was the best the Bulldogs have seen, rating him better than Lodi’s Andrew Wright, a 6-1, 190-pound port-sider who, like Hawkinson, will attend Fullerton State next season (Wright outdueled his future teammate for a 5-4 victory on March 3 in Lodi).
Turlock right-hander Dustin Newsome, who spelled Hawkinson in the sixth, worked around a walk in the seventh to earn the victory — the first high school pitcher able to make such a1 claim against Farinha.
“I just competed and that’s how the game turned out,” said Newsome, who struck out five of the seven batters he faced in getting the victory, his first since coming back from a broken collarbone. “That team could definitely compete at the D-I level.”
Turlock Christian coach Bill York was philosophical after his team’s first loss.
“Listen, when you’ve got two guys who are dealing, you almost have to play impeccable baseball and not be the first one to blink,” said York, whose team has not surrendered an earned run in 20 innings. “But I like how we played. And the thing is, Gavin kept pitching through it. He was missing barrels. But that’s baseball, right? Shoulda, woulda coulda.”
The Eagles will meet Wheatland today at 1:30 p.m. for third place, while the Bulldogs will face Downey at 4 p.m. for the tournament title (THS took two of three from the Knights during league play in March).
Turlock resumes Central California Athletic League action on Monday at 4 p.m. at Joe Debely Field in the first of three with crosstown rival Pitman. Meanwhile, Turlock Christian picks up Central California Athletic Alliance play on Tuesday against Millennium (Tracy) in a 7 p.m. game at Pedretti Park.