The Beyer High baseball team will play for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship.
The sixth-seeded Patriots built a seemingly insurmountable lead, scoring 10 runs on eight hits, and then held on for a nervy 10-8 victory over No. 5 Sierra at the University of the Pacific’s Klein Family Field.
Beyer coach Dom Duran praised his team's resiliency in the end, especially when momentum appeared to favor Sierra.
"It's a special group of guys," Duran said. "I see and recognize how big this is, and the kids recognize how important this is, too. They see how the time and effort they've put in has (been rewarded). They're playing as good as I've ever seen them play."
San Jose State-bound pitcher Ben Polack locked down the victory with a one-batter save.
Polack, a talented three-sport athlete, entered the game with two outs in the seventh inning and Sierra threatening. The Timberwolves scored five runs in the frame, and after Jacob Frisk loaded the bases with a two-out single, Polack trotted in from the bullpen.
The cagey left-hander sent the Patriots into the final with a three-pitch strikeout.
"We knew after that big double play (induced by pitcher Matthew Scott) that one out wouldn't be easy, but we also knew we could stop the bleeding," Duran said. "It was an easy decision to go with Ben Polack to shut them down.
"You have to tip your hat to Sierra, because they stepped up and hit every ball square. There wasn't a chopper or a blooper."
Beyer is back in a section final for the first time since 2000. The Patriots will play the winner of Sierra-Christian Brothers on Monday evening at a site yet to be determined.
In a double-elimination tournament, the Patriots need only one victory in the final to be champions.
In three previous trips to the Division I final, the Modesto Metro Conference co-champion is 0-3 with losses to Davis of Yolo, Del Campo and Jesuit.
Momentum is on the Patriots' side.
Beyer has won five straight, matching its season high.
"They realize the good situation that we're in, but they know they need to take care of it in the first game," said Duran, who will likely start Polack in the final. "The cards are in our favor and we have one of the better pitching staffs I've had as a group. ... It's a luxury to say the least."
Beyer scored runs in "unconventional" ways, said Duran, alluding to two runs via balks and another on a passed ball.
There were some big hits, though.
Brady Cardozo drove in a run with an RBI single, while Polack had two hits with three RBIs and three runs scored. Derek Gonzalez reached base twice on singles and score three times, and Austin Schott and Logan Pugh drove in runs with sacrifice flies.
The Timberwolves, also seeking their first section title, will have to take the hard route to history.
Sierra must knock off top-seeded Christian Brothers for the second time in six days. This time, it’s an elimination scheduled for Thursday at Klein Family Field. Sierra knocked Christian Brothers into the loser’s bracket with a 9-8 victory on Saturday.
On Tuesday, Sierra’s comeback bid was fueled by Jesse Ortiz-Martinez, who was 2 for 4 with a triple and four RBI, and Chase Sperbeck, who was 3 for 4 with a double and three runs scored.
Division III: In Sacramento, Escalon’s season came to a screeching halt with a 6-4 loss to Capital Christian at McAuliffe Ballpark, near the campus of Sacramento State.
Capital Christian scored the game-winning runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, breaking a 4-4 tie and the hearts of the Escalon faithful.
Escalon was the Trans-Valley League’s co-champion and won 24 games. Over the last two years, the Cougars have won 50 games, its most since the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Division V: In Lodi, top-seeded Linden kept its season alive with a 4-3 victory over No. 2 Bear River and will play Mother Lode League rival Argonaut for a section final berth.
Argonaut dropped into the loser's bracket final after being shut out by Colfax in the semifinal round. Colfax clinched a berth in the finals with a commanding 7-0 victory at Tony Zupo Field
Linden and Argonaut will play Thursday at 6 p.m. The two teams split their regular-season series, but Linden owns the head-to-head after dealing Argonaut a 5-4 defeat in the second round.
Division VI: In Sacramento, Ripon Christian clinched its second section finals berth in three years with an 8-7 victory over Bradshaw Christian. The Knights will play the winner of Bradshaw Christian-Modesto Christian in Monday’s Division VI final.
The Crusaders’ banner season continued Tuesday with a narrow 8-7 victory over Rio Vista in an elimination game. Modesto Christian, led by Trans-Valley League coach Mark Butler and Most Outstanding Pitcher Jovon Watkins, will play second-seeded Bradshaw Christian on Thursday in the loser’s bracket final at McAuliffe Ballpark.
Division VII: In Sacramento, Big Valley Christian remained in the hunt for a Division VI crown with a 6-2 victory over Valley Christian at McAuliffe Ballpark.
Jarred Thompson and Thommy Brown combined on a masterful three-hitter, and Thompson helped his own cause with a triple and two runs scored.
Briggs Alavezos had two base hits for the Lions, who play top-seeded Turlock Christian in a loser’s bracket final on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Turlock Christian suffered an 11-1 loss to Alpha Charter, which awaits the winner of this all-Stanislaus District clash in Monday’s final.