With two outs in the sixth inning and his team trailing by a run, Turlock High School’s Tanner Espindula strode to the plate like a fellow looking for a prom date.
“Honestly … I was hoping to get one that looked pretty,” the senior pinch hitter said.
Espindula lofted a mortar shot that fell in the Bermuda Triangle between first, second and right field, plating the tying run as the Bulldogs went on to grab a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Oakdale on the first day of the 31st annual Pedretti Tournament.
“I was a little out in front of it, but sometimes the baseball gods are watching out for you,” said Espindula.
Did Espindula think that Oakdale was going to make a play on the ball or that it would fall in for a hit?
“You’re always supposed to think they’re going to fall.”
Turlock entered the sixth inning trailing 5-3, hitless off Oakdale starter Tanner Emes, who retired the first two batters he faced in the frame.
However, Emes plunked shortstop Bubba Moreno (the second time he was hit by a pitch), and then gave up his first hit of the afternoon to Tate Soderstrom, who nearly homered in the fourth only to watch the ball die on the warning track in the deepest part of the park.
The Bulldogs (3-1) cut the lead to 5-4 on an Oakdale error, setting the stage for Espindula, whose single chased Emes.
Southpaw Ryan Poffentered in relief and allowed a single to center from Alex Pallios, who walked in his first two plate appearances and grounded to short in his third.
“We’ve got a young roster this year,” said Oakdale coach Nate Gregory. “We got two quick outs in the sixth, then they got some cheap knocks, which is kinda the way baseball works. But the kids worked hard and competed for each other.”
Turlock’s Blaine Weberpitched the seventh and struck out the side to earn the save.
“(Emes) was effectively wild today,” said Turlock coach Mark de la Motte. “We gave them some runs on errors in the first inning and then they returned the favor.”
Even though Emes allowed just one hit through the first 52/3, he walked five, hit two and was bailed out by shortstop Wade Branch, who twice climbed the ladder to snag line drives.
“I was at 80 pitches going into the sixth,” said Emes. “I was starting to get a little tired.”
Oakdale’s Brad Aquino opened the game with a single, then moved to second on a perfect bunt single by Logan Hall. Aquino and Hall moved up 90 feet on another bunt single by Branch, then scored on a Turlock error.
Turlock pitcher Cody Cornell retired the next two he faced, but designated hitter Adam Olsen ripped a letter-high fastball into center to score Branch and Nolan Legan, who reached on the error.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today,” said Cornell, who said he wasn’t frustrated by the error in the first. “You just have to keep battling. It’s early in the season; these things will happen.”
In other first-round games from the Pedretti Tournament, Pitman defeated Sierra 11-5 while Sonora beat Gregori 8-6 in nine innings.
3:30 p.m. – Lodi at Turlock; Gregori at Pitman; Oakdale at Modesto; Sierra vs. Sonora (at Pedretti Park)