The Sac-Joaquin Section baseball playoffs get underway on Tuesday with action in seven divisions. Here’s a look at five of the top games involving Stanislaus District teams:
No. 9 Lincoln of Stockton at No. 8 Turlock: Turlock’s reward for winning a share of the Central California Conference title is arguably the toughest first-round draw in the postseason. Lincoln finished in a two-way tie for second in the Tri-City Athletic League, but was at its best against the TCAL’s best. The Trojans took two of three from Lodi and Tracy, two playoff teams, and handed champion St. Mary’s one of its two league losses. Turlock and Lincoln have met once this season with the Bulldogs winning 4-1 on March 26. Senior Alex Garcia started the game and worked into the sixth before turning the ball over to senior Dallin Tilby, the staff ace. Tilby logged the final four outs to earn the save. In an elimination game, Tilby may find himself in the starter’s role this time around. In two seasons, Tilby is 12-1 with a 1.51 ERA, including 6-0 this spring.
No. 12 Tracy and No. 5 Pitman: The Pride seized a share of the CCC in coach Andy Walker’s first season, but face a daunting task in the first round of the playoffs. Tracy is a perennial Division I power that dropped to D-II, and worse, the Bulldogs have found their bite. Tracy carries a four-game winning streak into Tuesday’s opener. The Bulldogs are led by senior Josh Alvarado, who is hitting .329 with 14 extra-base hits, including four home runs, and pitcher Matt Nunes, who has a team-high five wins and two complete games. The Pride have been led a senior quartet: Joey Romeo (.426 average, 26 hits, 14 RBIs); Brett Hagen (.325, 25 hits, 11 runs); Garret Lema (.320, 24 hits, 19 runs); and Tyler Stout (.289, 22 hits, seven doubles).
No. 11 Vista del Lago at No. 6 Beyer: The Patriots captured their third Modesto Metro Conference title in four seasons with a victory over Modesto in the regular-season finale. Beyer is paced by San Jose State-bound pitcher Ben Polack, one of the Stanislaus District’s top overall athletes, and hard-hitting senior T.J. Wheeler. The Eagles finished tied for second in the Capital Athletic League and are 0-2 when traveling into the southern half of the section. Vista del Lago lost back-to-back games to Lincoln of Stockton and Manteca in March. Both programs are searching for their first Sac-Joaquin Section banner. Beyer is 0-3 in section finals and last appeared in the 2000 Division I final. Vista del Lago was beaten Manteca in the 2014 Division IV final, 6-2.
No. 12 Placer at No. 5 Sierra: The Timberwolves are playing for history in the first round of the playoffs. Jack Thomson, the school’s only baseball coach, can become the Stanislaus District’s all-time leader in career wins with a victory over the Hillmen. Thomson is tied with former Escalon coach Bob Loureiro, who retired with 604 career victories.
No. 11 Liberty Ranch at No. 6 Escalon: The Trans-Valley League co-champions were blindsided by seeding. Escalon coach Greg Largent hoped to land in the Division V tournament, but senior standout Parker Cosby and the Cougars will have to slug it out in a higher bracket. “We can play with anybody,” Largent said. “I think our worst enemy is ourselves. We went through a rough patch and didn’t play well, but that happens in this game. Hopefully, we’re back on track and see what happens.” Escalon could start Cosby, who is 10-0 with eight complete games, Paul Ayala, a right-handed senior, or Anthony LaRossa, a blossoming junior talent.