At 6-foot-4, Chase Fetzer casts a long shadow from atop the mound.
When he has all three pitches working, the Beyer High senior seems even more imposing.
He was a monster on Monday, keeping the Modesto Metro Conference playoff race exciting with an all-around performance.
Fetzer went 4 for 4 and earned the complete-game victory as the Patriots defeated Modesto High, 5-2.
“It’s exciting alright,” Modesto skipper Daryl Galloway said. “A little too exciting for me.”
The Panthers (12-13, 9-7) entered the series needing only a win to clinch their first Sac-Joaquin Section postseason berth since 2000.
Beyer coach Dom Duran said the senior-laden Patriots (15-9, 12-3) fed on Modesto’s desperation.
“We can’t look at the Modesto series as if it’s a scrimmage or practice game,” Duran said. “We want this competitive level. They need one win and they’re in the playoffs. We recognize the importance; just how much it means to them.
“We understand what that kind of pressure can do a team. Those kids (Modesto) were grinding and they never quit, and we don’t expect anything different Wednesday or Friday.”
Modesto’s magic number may be one, but Downey (9-16, 7-9) holds the advantage in the race for the conference’s final playoff seed.
The Knights close the regular season with Davis, while Modesto and Enochs (8-8, 12-13) must slug it out with two of the top teams in the southern half of the section – Beyer and Gregori (24-0, 16-0), the outright league champion and only unbeaten team in the section.
In the event of a tie, Downey would advance on the No. 1 tiebreaker: head-to-head matchup. The Knights took two of three from Modesto and Enochs.
The Patriots will do their best to deny Modesto, which has lost its last two.
“The thing we’re trying to convince them is that we can do this. We feel we match up with Beyer,” Modesto coach Daryl Galloway said. “Obviously, they’ve been in the top spot a long, long time. They have a mystique about them. We just need to get by that. A lot of teams lose to Beyer before they even play them because of that history they have.
“We have to convince our kids that they put their baseball pants on same way we do. If we play our game and come out with intensity, we feel we have shot at beating them.”
Fetzer grew stronger as the game wore on. He allowed one earned run on five hits, and struck out three. He was helped by a three-run fifth inning, which broke open a 2-2 game.
“Chase is one of those guys that if one or two of his pitches aren’t working, he can still have a good outing,” Duran said. “When he has all three pitches working, he’s almost unhittable.
“There will be games, such as today, where we’ll work in all three pitches and then it all clicks. The second and third time through the lineup, they weren’t comfortable. He got better as the game went on.”
Fetzer was helped by his defense, particularly shortstop Tyler Orique. Struggling as of late with his bat, Duran praised Orique for finding other ways to impact each game.
The slick-fielding shortstop converted all eight opportunities, recording five assists and three putouts.
“He’s not hitting as well as he wants to be right now,” Duran said, “but I couldn’t care less if he’s hitting a buck-20. If he plays defense, he’ll always find a spot in the lineup.
“Baseball is one of those sports where teammates can pick you up in so many ways. Just because he’s not hitting, he can still make a difference on defense.”
Fetzer helped his own cause with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored. Trevor Ravelli was 2 for 4 with a run, and Josh Escobar and Mason Fontana drove in one run apiece.
By virtue of Gregori’s 12-0 win over Enochs on Monday, Beyer was officially knocked out of the hunt for its third consecutive MMC title.
Duran insists the most important prize remains in play: a Sac-Joaquin Section crown. The Division I tournament has long been dominated by teams from the north, and no team from the Stanislaus District has appeared in the final since Buhach Colony lost to Jesuit (Carmichael) in 2008.
With Fetzer finding his form, Orique’s glovework and the most four-year players Duran has ever had, the Patriots feel like they’re standing on the precipice of history.
“My seniors made sure to pump up the guys,” Duran said. “We couldn’t let the pedal off the metal. They know the playoffs are around the corner and they rose to the occasion.”
Modesto will send sophomore Trent Prokes to the mound Wednesday as the series shifts to Streeter Field. Prokes tossed a one-hitter against Enochs in his last outing.
“We feel that he is the guy that we need,” Galloway said. “He has been a little hot lately and we want to keep rolling with that.
“They want to change the history. They want to start a new chapter. They’re really dead-set at getting after it the next two games.”