LODI — In case you harbor thoughts that being part of a team doesn’t mean much to today’s high school athletes, here’s Tazz Rodoni.
Just moments after his Central Catholic baseball team team dropped a 2-1 decision to Cosumnes Oaks in Wednesday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 quarterfinal, Rodoni, a senior outfielder, was asked to talk about a game that was played at a very high level.
His words came out in four- and five-word emotional bursts.
“I’m a little shaky,” Rodoni said. “Let me compose myself. We did a good job. We fought hard. We knew what we were facing today and we were ready.”
Put this in perspective. In a few months, Rodoni will be off to Baylor University to study biology in a pre-med concentration. He aspires to be a surgeon, so his future could be brighter than anyone else who played at Zupo Field.
And yet, in this moment, he was halting and gasping to find his voice through the emotion.
Central Catholic finished 22-6 in its last Western Athletic Conference baseball season, earning the league’s No. 1 seed with four sophomores seeing extended playing time.
“I’m proud of what we did,” said coach Mike Glines. “We won 20 games and we got here and we lost in eight innings. We had four sophomores in the starting lineup and they’re going to be good ones.”
And they had chances to play even longer, since with the win Cosumnes Oaks advanced to the best-of-3 semifinal round that opens with a single game on Saturday at noon against Manteca.
The Wolfpack (20-8) got a complete-game performance from lefty Donovan Palma, who allowed seven hits, struck out eight and walked three in his 113-pitch effort.
He was matched for the most part by Raiders lefty Matt Clark, who worked a lot more deep counts and used 125 pitches in working into the eighth.
But Clark walked Christian Savage on four pitches to open the eighth, then gave up a sharp single to left to Drew Gwarder.
That was it for Clark, and reliever Bradley Nightengale got the most dangerous hitter in the Wolfpack order, Kweisi Samuel, to hit a double-play grounder to shortstop. But the exchange wasn’t executed well, and the Raiders settled for getting only the force at second base.
Johnny Savage followed with a perfect squeeze bunt toward third base, and Christian Savage scored without a play at the plate.
The Wolfpack took a 1-0 lead in the sixth when Gwarder singled and scored when Samuel followed with a line drive that one-hopped the wall in left.
Central Catholic answered immediately with a two-out rally, as Jonathan Weathered singled, Kyle Costa walked and Rodoni drilled an off-field double into the right-field corner.
The Raiders threatened a walk-off win in the seventh when Ryan Vierra singled and went to second on a wild pickoff throw. With two outs, A.J. Contreras hit a booming fly ball to left-center that was run down for the third out.
It was the last of three outstanding catches of deep fly balls made by Cosumnes Oaks, each stopping a Central Catholic scoring threat.
“We hit the heck out of the ball and they made some great catches,” Glines said. “We just couldn’t get the hit when we needed it and we couldn’t get a bunt down when we needed one. If we do, they don’t have the chance to squeeze.”
So while Central Catholic will look at the 2-1 result as the one that got away, the future is bright for the program with all the young players, and certainly bright for those graduating seniors off to pursue new dreams.
Manteca 6, El Dorado 0 – Jake Corn’s no-hitter was gone after the first pitch, when he gave up a double to El Dorado’s Zach Culp.
But from that point on, no one was touching the Buffaloes’ ace, as he rolled to a three-hit shutout, striking out 13 batters along the way.
“My curveball was off and on,” Corn said. “When I finished it, it was all right, but I definitely need to work on that. I really try to pitch to contact, because I’m not out there throwing 90.”
Michael Garabay had three hits and scored three runs from his leadoff spot, and William Reeder’s three hits included a triple, while No. 9 hitter Alex Jorgensen had a double and a single and scored twice.
Manteca (22-3) took control early, grabbing a 3-0 lead after two innings, and Corn took over from there, as only three runners reached second base for the Cougars (21-7).