STOCKTON — It’s no secret that Turlock High’s advantage over all the other teams in the Division I South baseball bracket is the number of its quality pitchers.
On the other hand, even that distinct advantage can be stretched to the limit if the Bulldogs are forced to use all those arms within the same week.
But that’s the situation Turlock faces after Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to Tokay in an extremely well-pitched, well-played game.
In order for the Bulldogs to claim the South title, they’ll have to beat St. Mary’s tonight at 7 p.m. in an elimination game, then come back on Friday to beat Tokay twice.
“The advantage would have been even bigger had we got this one tonight,” said coach Mark de le Motte. “Now we have to come back the hard way, but it’s been done.
“We have to come back and swing the bats tomorrow, because that game is going to be about offense. St. Mary’s is getting down in their pitching and we still have arms. We’ve won three in a row a few times this season and now we have to do it again.”
The Bulldogs (23-6) are in that situation because Tokay ace Alex Dentoni was able to get out of multiple jams, holding Turlock to one hit in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.
That one hit was a two-out RBI double by Gavin Gaffaney in the second inning that scored Jon Temple, who had walked and stolen second base.
But all that run did was pull Turlock within 2-1, since Tokay put up single runs in each of the first two innings with exceptional situational hitting.
Bulldogs’ starter Blake Cederlind gave up a one-out triple in the first to Michael Meinecke, who scored when Bryce Gaddy followed with a chop to second base.
In the second, Jake Penix led off with a double for Tokay (24-5), went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground ball to shortstop. That was it for the Tigers, who collected only one hit off Cederlind over the final five innings.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Cederlind said. “I got that out of my system in the first playoff game. I fell behind in the count before they’d hit something well, and then they got them home on ground balls.
“We just didn’t have the energy we had in the first game here. Maybe we thought that we could just come in here and win it.”
Turlock’s best chance to tie the game came in the fifth, when Cederlind led off with a single and Brett Cumberland followed with a blast to center that was run down and caught at the wall by a leaping Kyle Rivers.
Cederlind would have scored easily on the play had the catch not been made, and who knows what the Bulldogs could have done from there.
But that’s the kind of game it was. Both pitchers allowed only four hits and neither team committed an error.
“That was a good game, well-played and both teams got four hits,” de la Motte said. “Give their guy credit for pounding the strike zone all night, and both teams made good plays. That was really good high school baseball.”
Nick Gonzalez (5-1, 1.16) should get the start for Turlock tonight, de la Motte said, but the whole staff – all 10 arms – will be available.
“We’ll be fine going into the next couple of days,” Cederlind said. “I don’t have a doubt.”