LODI — Put yourself in the multi-sport shoes of Oakdale's Eddie Machado and answer this question:
Which would make you more nervous lining up as a defensive back in a state bowl championship game against a receiver bigger and faster than you, or taking the mound in the seventh inning of a playoff baseball game with a no-hitter on the line?
Here's a better way to look at it. How many high school athletes can say they've done both?
Machado, a senior lefty, threw darts at the strike zone at will Thursday night at Zupo Field, and walked away with a no-hitter as the Mustangs blanked Cosumnes Oaks 3-0 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 elimination game.
Machado did answer the football vs. baseball question.
'I would say it's facing the receiver, because that's a physical thing and this was more mental," he said.
If that's the case, then Machado has been as mental as anything this season. He's now 7-0 with a 0.91 ERA and his 10 strikeouts against the Wolfpack gives him 79 in 53-plus innings.
"I just felt good," Machado said. "Over the break I worked with my brother and my coaches and they got me to keep my shoulder in because I was flaring out. Ever since then I've been hitting the strike zone."
Cosumnes Oaks (14-15) had only two baserunners - both reaching via walk on 3-2 counts - and hit only one ball hard. It came in the third inning _ after Oakdale plated three runs in the bottom of the second _ when Johnny Savage tore into a high fastball and drilled it deep to straight-away left field.
On some nights, when the wind is blowing harder, it might have been a home run at this former minor league baseball park. But Christian Acosta sprinted back to the fence, then took two quick steps back toward the plate before making the catch.
At that moment, just seven outs into the game, Machado sensed something special was afoot.
"When I saw Christian Acosta make that catch I began thinking that this could be the day," Machado said. "Usually when you get a play like that made in the field, something good is happening for the pitcher."
Oakdale (20-8-1) bunched four hits off sophomore Donovan Palma in the second inning to score all its runs. Bryce Dyrda and Sean Harrity had RBI singles and Nick Ippolito added an RBI double.
The Mustangs, who advanced to meet Vista Del Lago in a best-of-three semifinal round starting Saturday at 3 p.m. at Zupo Field, got only four singles the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Cosumnes was struggling just to make contact against Machado, whose fastball topped out at around 84 mph.
"We had to have a win to move on, and that's what was nice about tonight," said coach Hondo Arpoika, who is leaving the post after this season.
"Eddie had good numbers, around 80 or so pitches and was showing no signs of getting tired. He wasn't leaving any pitches up and was strong to the end."
When you're used to playing in the fourth quarter, the seventh inning is no sweat.
VISTA DEL LAGO 11, CERES 5 The game could not have started better for the Bulldogs, who scored four in the top of the first and stopped an Eagles' rally in the bottom of the inning when Brent Bussard made a remarkable over-the-shoulder catch in deep right-center.
"Yeah, I thought things were going out way and then too many mistakes they really started to set in," said Bulldogs' coach John Bussard. "Sometimes things just don't go your way."
Ceres (20-7-1) committed three errors and also allowed three catchable balls fall for hits in the outfield as Vista Del Lago (25-3) used big innings to post the win.
The Eagles came back with three runs in the second a rally aided by a hit batsman and an infield throwing error but did most the damage in a six-run fourth.
In that inning alone Ceres let two balls fall in the outfield, and Vista Del Lago took advantage by scoring five runs on two-out base hits.
"We were a fairly solid defensive teams and then we hit kind of a defensive funk the last three weeks and haven't been able to dig ourselves out," Bussard said.
Brent Bussard had Ceres' big hit a two-run double in the first, while Devon Ruger scored twice and contributed two hits to the Bulldogs' eight-hit attack.
"We were pleased with the season, but were hoping for better," John Bussard said.