STOCKTON — There are few high school baseball teams as confident right now about their ability to score runs in bunches as Turlock High.
And when St. Mary’s brought a lefty into Monday night’s game, that confidence shot through the windblown sky at Klein Family Field.
You see, veteran head coach Mark de la Motte is a lefty, and when he throws batting practice, the Bulldogs rake.
Turlock teed off on Rams’ freshman lefty reliever Eric Madrid during a seven-run fifth inning that completed the Bulldogs’ rally from a five-run deficit and carried them to a 13-8 victory.
“They crush my pitching, so any time another team brings in a lefty, I tell them to just think that it’s me,” de la Motte said.
The win pushed Turlock (23-5) into the winners’ bracket in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 South playoffs.
It will get a day off before facing Tokay on Wednesday night. St. Mary’s (16-13) will battle Tracy tonight, with the Rams needing a win to keep alive their hopes of extending their run of South titles to six.
Yes, Turlock’s road to a possible section crown has been stopped by the Rams on more than one occasion. The Bulldogs have reached the section finals three times (1987, 1990, 1997) and are waiting to bring home their first title under this format.
“I told the guys on Friday that this is our turn because we’ve been run out by St. Mary’s before,” de la Motte said. “We’ve also had a lot of tough battles with Tokay, so that will be a lot of fun on Wednesday.”
This game started out not very fun for the Bulldogs. Starter Marcus Lopez was wild, allowing seven runs in three innings on six hits and six walks before giving way to Brian Mendez.
Mendez was able to restore order, but Turlock trailed 8-3 as it came to bat in the bottom of the fourth.
The Bulldogs scored twice off reliever Stefan Giovannoni in the fourth before he was replaced by Madrid, then sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth in their explosive inning.
Brett Cumberland’s RBI double got things going for Turlock in the fifth, Alex Pallios legged out a bunt single on what was designed as a squeeze, and Jon Temple added a sacrifice fly.
The Bulldogs already had a 9-8 lead when Cody Cornell came through with the crusher. Facing Steven Vasquez, St. Mary’s fourth pitcher, Cornell got a 0-1 curveball and golfed it over the fence in left for a three-run homer and a 12-8 lead.
“Early in the year we’d score one or two runs in the first inning, and that was it,” de la Motte said. “But we have confidence going right now and the younger guys are going well.”
A confident lineup is not the only thing Turlock has going its way. The Bulldogs have a lot of available arms, which might be the most valuable commodity in a double-elimination format.
“We have 10 pitchers,” de la Motte said. “None of them are going to be top recruits anywhere, but they all throw strikes, even when it’s tight for both teams like it was tonight.”