STOCKTON -- Jimmy Myers' eye-black streaked down his cheeks, not unlike a teardrop after a good cry, at game's end.
"My warrior paint," Grace Davis High's 5-foot-7 shortstop described. "I like it like that."
Myers, the Spartans' feisty energy source, and his mates would have traded a season's worth of face decoration for a couple of runs Wednesday afternoon. Davis managed only five hits and bowed out of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South playoffs 2-0 to Tracy at Pacific's Klein Family Field.
The final pitch capsulized Davis' game-long frustration. Seconds after a gutsy double-steal advanced the tying runs into scoring position, Frankie Alcala lofted a soft fly to shallow left-center that was speared on the run by the Bulldogs' Robert Emerson.
The Spartans (20-7) will reflect on a Modesto Metro Conference title, a wonderful run by their 6-foot-5 pitcher Ryan Stice but -- once again -- a first-round loss for the third straight year.
"I've had five of these guys for three years," coach Kevin Ruiz said. "I wanted it for them. They laid it on the line."
Stice, one of the quintet, changed speeds effectively and spun the speed gun to 88 mph at times while striking out 12. Tracy's 6-2 righthander Kyle Hassna lacked Stice's velocity but was no less effective denying Davis for 6ª innings.
The crowd of about 200 sensed correctly that the game would go to the team scoring first. Tracy (21-7) used contributions from underclassmen in the sixth to break through.
In the game's key at-bat, No. 9 hitter Tanner Turner -- a freshman -- fouled off three Stice pitches at 3-2. Turner then lashed a chest-high fastball to the wall in left-center for a triple and later trotted home on a sacrifice fly to right by sophomore Kyle Moses.
"I got tired toward the end and left some pitches up," Stice said. "I had to keep it down or they would hit it."
The Bulldogs added one more in the seventh inning on an RBI double by Emerson after Daniel Heefner's sacrifice bunt. Tracy, which put aside its season-ending loss Lodi that cost it a share of the San Joaquin Athletic Association title, earned the win by successfully moving along its baserunners.
Conversely, Davis' threat in the sixth was undermined by a failed sacrifice. Myers followed with a 390-foot rip to center that was chased down by Brandon Jossey. After Jake Cisco singled, Tracy coach Vic Alkire switched Moses from shortstop to the mound. Moses then retired Martin Gonzales on a groundout.
"I really thought it (his deep fly ball) was over his head," Myers said. "Off the bat, I thought we were scoring a run."
Though Davis lost at home to Tracy 5-2 on March 4, the Spartans believed their chances were good in the rematch. But the Bulldogs responded by dousing three rallies with clutch defense.
"Stice did a fabulous job. He was on," Ruiz said. "Credit the kid (Turner) for a great piece of hitting."
The Davis players absorbed the loss with predictable disappointment but not grief.
"We were ready to win that game. We were never out of it," Myers said. "And we didn't choke."
Bee sports writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.