STOCKTON — Turlock High pitcher Nick Voumard didn't have his best stuff.
He admitted as much minutes after the Bulldogs' 5-1 season-ending loss to St. Mary's Wednesday in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 South final at UOP's Klein Family Field
But in looking at his final line, you'd never have known he was pitching on short rest. The senior right-hander pitched five innings on three-days rest, giving up only four hits while striking out five.
"I was just out there competing, pitching with my heart," said Voumard, an ice pack strapped to his shoulder, melting in the Delta heat. "I was just trying to give my team all I had."
All he had was just about good enough.
"He gave us everything," said Bulldogs coach Mark de la Motte. "He was completely done."
Voumard gave up a bloop single to right to start the game. The ball caromed off right fielder Luis Mendez toward center, allowing leadoff man Ripken Reyes to reach second. Joey Caffese then blooped the bloopiest of doubles down the right-field line. The ball landed between Mendez, first baseman Austin Bush and second baseman Darren Trainor about six inches from three different mitts and the foul line. Reyes then scored when No. 3 hitter Jed Sprague lofted a sacrifice fly to left.
Caffese, who scooted to third on Sprague's sac fly, was stranded at third thanks to Voumard, who fanned clean-up hitter Scott Michael and then picked off No. 5 hitter Zach Johnson, who reached via walk.
From there, Voumard matched St. Mary's starter Caffese zero for zero.
"Turlock is good," said Rams coach Peter Pijl (pronounced "pile"). "The first game we played the other night was a nail-biter, too.
"We came in here today knowing this was going to be a battle. We wanted to get his pitch count up, and we did a pretty good job, making him throw 22 pitches in the first inning. And we didn't have too many bad at-bats today. But that kid pitched his butt off."
But as good as Voumard was, Caffese was better. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound Caffese stymied Turlock's hitters and carried a no-hitter into the sixth.
"I was just trying to locate as much as possible and hit the corners," said Caffese, who beat Mater Dei, the top-ranked team in the nation at one point this season, on March 1 in Santa Ana. "Their one-through-six hitters are so dangerous."
But they didn't do much until the top of the sixth.
Trailing 2-0 the Rams added another run in the fifth thanks to a walk, an error by Gavin Gaffaney and another sac fly Turlock got its first hit of the game when Mendez drilled a sharp, one-out single to center. Catcher Brett Cumberland, who hit one on the screws in the fourth, plated Mendez with a two-out double to the gap in right.
"The no-hitter didn't really faze me," said Cumberland. "It didn't change my approach up there. I always believe that our guys are going to get a hit every at-bat."
Bush followed by working a walk to put runners on first and second, and it looked as if Caffese was cooked. But Caffese fanned Tyler Murphy, who threw a no-hitter in Tuesday's win over Pitman, to end the threat and, effectively, Turlock's season. The Rams erupted for three runs off reliever Tyler Lucas in their half of the frame before the three-time defending section champions closed it out.
For the sixth time in the last seven years, St. Mary's will play for a section crown. The Rams will play the winner of Elk Grove vs. Franklin (Elk Grove)/Pleasant Grove.
"St. Mary's is a heck of a team," said de la Motte, whose Bulldogs have seen their season at the Rams' hands three out of the last four seasons. "They know how to win, they play a tough schedule, they're deep ... give them all the credit in the world."