The town of Turlock has a lot to be proud of and high school baseball is one of them.
With the conclusion of Wednesday's Central California Conference regular season finale, both Turlock and Pitman High were crowned the co-league champions after the Pride finished the series sweep in a thrilling comeback that ended 5-3.
“It's awesome because Turlock is a true baseball town,” said Pitman head coach John Acha. “There is so much talent in this area and it’s tough competing against a school with a 100-year alumni. I am a former Turlock Bulldog, but I always said if it had to be us and Turlock in the one and two going into the playoffs, I am cool with that.”
“Just unfortunate someone has to come on the short end,” said Turlock coach Dave Cheney. “But neither of us are on the short end, both of us are co-champions and there are five or six other teams that would like to be there. But all the credit in the world to them, they did a really good job.”
Pitman and Turlock conclude the CCC season with a 10-2 record each.
The Bulldogs clinch the CCC title for back-to-back seasons, while the Pride win their second in the last three seasons.
With the win, Pitman has beaten Turlock in six of the last eight meetings, dating back to 2015.
“We are just always battling and good ball players on both sides and it's great to see the reward that we showed we have good ball players and we work hard, and its special,” said Acha.
The Pride went up first, leading 1-0 by the start of the bottom of the first after they managed to score off Turlock starter Cameron Martin, before they were held stagnant for the next five innings.
Turlock rallied immediately and added a pair of runs in the bottom of the first after Tyler Soderstrom and Tyler Etharidge each added an RBI to go up 2-1 on Pride starter Tyler Stout.
The Pride were held scoreless for the next five innings as Martin continued to keep the Pride batters off.
“We weren't real patient at the plate or swinging at bad pitches or good ones not timing them up,” said Acha. “Cameron Martin did a great job of keeping us off balance, and we couldn't square up after the first and told them to be patient and hopefully get base runners, we told them to do that.”
Soderstrom drove in Kayleb Becerra for the 'Dogs third and final run in the bottom of the third, then after three scoreless innings for each side, the Pride took off.
Pitman got two of their first three batters on base to start the seventh inning when junior Brett Hagen stepped up to the plate and delivered in a crucial situation after squaring up for a hard two-run double that tied the ball game at 3-3.
Two batters later and Turlock's Martin was dealing with runners at first and third and two outs, only a wild pitch ensued and allowed Hagen to score from third for the go-ahead run.
Mac Cabero added the security run with an RBI single to make it 5-3.
“All the credit in the world goes to Pitman. They battled back and they had to win two and did what they had to do,” said Cheney. “Coach Acha and his kids and staff did a fantastic job, there is not much to say, one of those things they came out and battled hard. We made some mistakes and it happens in baseball.”
Turlock finished with two errors to Pitman's none. Pitman also had five hits to Turlock's 10.
Pride reliever Hagen was able to close out the seventh with three up and three down, picking up the victory after tossing four innings of shutout ball, while allowing just two hits.
“Early on we started struggling, but it's kind of what you want to do is start slow and build from there,” said Acha. “We knew if we chipped away just one game at a time we felt confident. We have an amazing group of seniors, let alone boys who are seniors and have done it all year.”
Martin tossed 6 and 2/3 innings for Turlock while Alex Garcia tossed 1/3.
Pitman ends the season with a 17-9 overall record while Turlock ends with a 17-7 season.
Both are on their way to competing in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-I tournament. The brackets were not announced by publication time.