SACRAMENTO — With a loud crack of the bat Tuesday, Justin Jones realized he would have to alter his pitch selection if he was going to keep his record perfect.
"My fastball was flat and they were able to get on it, so I had to mix in more curves and go to my changeup," Oakdale High's junior ace said.
"It happened earlier this year, too, so I just went back to what worked in that game."
Jones' approach confused Placer's hitters, and was a crucial factor in giving Oakdale an 8-2 win and a berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game.
The Mustangs (24-3), who needed only two games to capture the best-of-three series with Placer, will face Valley Oak League rival East Union (15-10) in Monday's noon final.
Jones, who struck out 12 and walked none while boosting his record to 11-0, said he's ready to pitch that game if he's called on.
"We've been waiting all season for this game," said Jones, a part-time hurler on the 2007 section title team. "This is the game we all expected to play in."
Jones did his part, overcoming his flat fastball to fire a five-hitter and allow just two unearned runs.
His first challenge came when Maxx Harris hit a 390-foot triple to center to open the second. The junior responded by going high and low, inside and out to strike out the next three and leave a frustrated Harris stranded at third.
Placer opened the third inning with a double, but Jones struck out the next batter and got the final two outs on bouncers to the mound.
His life got easier in the top of the third, when Oakdale scored six runs to boost its lead to 7-0.
"The lead gave me the confidence to keep throwing strikes," said Jones, who rarely went to a three-ball count. "My curve and changeup were moving, so I kept switching what I would throw."
He benefited from the expansive park — the alleys are 375 feet away and center is 405 — as Placer lofted a number of deep fly balls that outfielders tracked down.
Jones helped himself, as well.
His RBI double got Oakdale a quick lead, and the six-run third put the Mustangs in command.
With the bases full and the infield in, Eddie McGrath lined an RBI single to center and Logan Bruce ripped a two-run single to the same location. Kevin Coffee later doubled off the left-field fence to bring in the final three.
"Their pitcher was throwing a lot of fastballs, so I knew to look for it," said Coffee, the leadoff hitter who singled and scored the final run in the seventh. "When I hit it, I could feel it was a big one. "A seven-run lead, with Justin out there, that was a great feeling."