Justin Parle likes his team's scrappiness.
It was easy to see why on Friday afternoon.
The Merced High baseball team was already facing an uphill battle with Turlock ace Tyler Murphy on the mound. It got a little tougher when the Bulldogs hit through the order and scored five runs in the first inning.
Instead of folding , however, the Bears started chipping their way back into the game. Merced got the tying run in position a number of times, but could never quite catch up in an 8-5 loss at home.
"We knew coming in (Murphy) was a challenge," Parle said. "He did what he always does. He threw hard. He got his breaking ball over for strikes. We were able to get some balls in play, though, and make some things happen.
"I told the kids after the game I was very pleased how they responded to that first inning. We just couldn't ever get things back to even."
Turlock (4-0 Central California Conference) had its first seven batters reach base safely with six hits and a walk.
A wild pitch plated the game's first run and Austin Bush doubled in another.
Gavin Gaffney followed with a two-run single and Dakota Edwards doubled in one more to take a 5-0 lead.
Merced (6-6, 2-2 CCC) struck right back in the bottom half of the inning.
Isidro Mendoza got some aid from the gusting wind, doubling in a pair of runs. He'd eventually come in to score on a Turlock error as the Bears trimmed the lead to 5-3.
Both teams exchanged single runs in the second inning, but Merced's best chance to get back into it may have come in the bottom of the third.
A two-base error and an Eli Gutierrez single helped the Bears put runners on second and third with no outs.
Murphy wasn't nearly as sharp as his one-hit shutout of Buhach Colony last week, but he came up big in tough spots.
He struck out Tanner McBurney and then got Jeremy Mendoza to chop a ball to short.
Isidro Mendoza tried to score from third on the play and was gunned down at the plate. Murphy escaped the jam unscathed with another strike out to preserve the 6-4 lead.
"There's no excuse for not scoring at least one in that situation," Parle said. "That's on me. I didn't have the guys completely prepared for what we were trying to do there and it cost us.
"There were a few execution things that we missed on throughout the game and that's on me too for not communicating better."
Patrick Vitato got Merced back within one with an RBI double in the fourth, but the Bears wouldn't get any closer.
Merced left eight on base in the game and went just 4 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
Turlock added insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings and Edwards closed the door with a two-inning save.
"It's kind of a bittersweet feeling," said Shawn Heath-Smith, who was 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI. "It was nice going out and scoring some runs against Murphy, who is a really good pitcher, but it's tough not getting it done.
"It's just a few mental errors that are costing us right now. I think we'll have them worked out before next week."
Golden Valley 8, Atwater 5
The Cougars rallied for seven runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to pull out a late victory over the Falcons.
GV (7-5, 1-3 CCC) loaded the bases with a couple singles and a walk and then tied up the game by walking in four straight runs. Spencer Vierra then singled in a pair of runs to put the Cougars up for good.
Izaak Hurtado and Victor Tiscareno each had two hits in the loss for Atwater (7-4, 1-3 CCC)
Merced 129, Pitman 60
TURLOCK -- Isaac Santana turned in his best time of the year (1:03.53) in the 100-yard breast stroke and helped Merced win the 200 free relay as the Bears cruised to victory over Pitman.
Brett Fogelberg and Josh Fluetsch each won a pair of individual events and contributed to some relay wins for Merced (2-0 CCC).
Merced 101, Pitman 79
TURLOCK -- Alison Miller won the 200 and 500 freestyle races and chipped in on a pair of relay wins as Merced pulled out a tight victory over Pitman.
Taylor Schaller won the 100 backstroke and chipped in a pair of relay wins for the Bears (2-0 CCC).