The Central California Conference had a hard time picking an outright champion, but it had no issues in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section baseball playoffs.
All three of its champions are still alive in the divisions I and II tournaments, and all three edged teams from the Tri-City Athletic League to reach Thursday's second round.
Turlock rallied late to beat Lincoln of Stockton, and after 10-run losses by Modesto and Gregori of the Modesto Metro Conference, the Bulldogs will carry the torch for the Stanislaus District in the Division I playoffs.
In Division II, Pitman won a pitcher's duel with Tracy, 1-0, and Buhach Colony's youth shined in a 3-1 victory over Lodi.
All three turn their attention to much tougher draws in Thursday's second round. Here's a closer look at the second-round games involving Stanislaus District teams:
No. 8 Turlock (21-5) at No. 1 Franklin of Elk Grove (22-6): The Bulldogs overcame a 2-0 deficit in the opening round with three runs over the final three innings. Case Pacheco had an RBI double and Kayleb Becerra drove in two runs for Turlock, who draw one of the top teams in the state. Top-seeded Franklin shared the Delta League title with perennial D-I champion Elk Grove, and vaulted into Cal-Hi Sports' top-20 state ranking. The Wildcats are No. 16 in the poll, the highest ranked team in the section. Turlock set up the meeting by using its best arm in the opener. Senior ace Dallin Tilby notched his fourth complete game of the season and improved to 7-0 by scattering five hits. He allowed only a two-run triple to Lincoln's Nikko Dowd.
No. 5 Pitman (17-10) at No. 4 Granite Bay (17-11): Central California Conference MVP Brett Hagen delivered in a big way for the Pride in a narrow victory over Tracy. Hagen tossed a complete-game shutout and drove in the game's only run with a single in the fourth inning. The Pride improved to 9-2 in one-run games, giving first-year coach Andy Walker confidence as he takes his team on the road to an SFL heavyweight. Granite Bay won its fourth straight game on Tuesday, defeating Bella Vista 7-5.
No. 7 Buhach Colony (20-8) at No. 2 Woodcreek (17-10): With three sophomores and one freshman in the starting lineup, the future looks bright for the Buhach Colony program. The present isn't so bad, either. Sophomore Antonio Cortez pitched into the seventh against the Flames and freshman Jake Sapien provided the final measure with an RBI single as the Thunder shored up a meeting with a top seed. Woodcreek edged Napa, 6-5, in its opener. By comparison, Woodcreek's 22-man roster features 20 upperclassmen.
No. 6 Beyer (19-9) at No. 3 Oakdale (17-10): This one should be exciting. Two league champions converge in the second round, each riding a wave of momentum. Oakdale smoked Pacheco, 11-1, while Beyer blanked Vista del Lago in its opener, 8-0. The Patriots are the MMC co-champion, while the Mustangs won a contentious race in the Valley Oak League. MMC Offensive Player of the Year T.J. Wheeler was the catalyst in Beyer's win over Vista del Lago. Wheeler homered and drove in two runs. He's reached base safely in all 28 games this season. San Jose State-bound pitcher Ben Polack allowed just three hits over six innings. He fanned six. Junior Max Moore powered Oakdale's mercy rule victory over Pacheco, going 3 for 4 with four RBI.
No. 5 Sierra (16-9) at No. 4 Los Banos (18-5-1): Jack Thomson became the Stanislaus District's all-time winningest baseball coach with Sierra's 2-0 victory over Placer in the first round. Thomson has 605 career victories, breaking a tie with former Escalon coach Bob Loureiro. Los Banos is the Western Athletic Conference champion, and the Tigers advanced with a 2-1 win over Pioneer.
No. 8 Manteca (17-9-1) at Christian Brothers (21-5): The Buffaloes' championship pedigree shined in an opening-round win over American Canyon. Seniors Kyle Rachels and Zach Chamberlain combined to go 4-for-7 with three RBIs and junior Alex Gouveia was 2 for 3 with three RBIs. All three started for Manteca in a 9-6 victory over Christian Brothers in the 2016 Division III final. Super sophomore Ryan Ward will likely get the start against the top-seeded Falcons.
Other games: Division IV: No. 8 Sonora at No. 1 El Dorado; No. 6 Escalon at No. 3 Dixon. Division V: No. 8 Gustine at No. 1 Linden; No. 5 Mariposa at No. 4 Argonaut. Division VI: No. 8 Le Grand at No. 1 Rio Vista; No. 5 Vacaville Christian at No. 4 Ripon Christian; No. 6 Modesto Christian at No. 3 Woodland Christian. Division VII: No. 8 Leroy Greene at No. 1 Turlock Christian; No. 6 Hughes Academy at No. 3 Big Valley Christian.