LODI -- The 10th consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section baseball title for Central Catholic, its seventh as a Division V school, was not a given when the team began play this spring.
Coach Mike Glines knew he had one elite player in sophomore outfielder/pitcher Billy Flamion, but the Raiders seemed to be lacking their usual depth of talent.
As it turned out, Central's lack of star power became a moot point when the Raiders began to develop heroes, some of whom stepped forward on Monday to share the spotlight with Flamion. His 10-strikeout no-hitter should not be all that is remembered from Monday's 10-0 five-inning victory over Hilmar.
But stars first. Flamion had his way with the YellowJackets, who handed the lefty a dramatic loss with two seventh-inning home runs in their final regular-season meeting.
This time, he faced 16 batters and needed 71 pitches to dispatch Hilmar, allowing only two baserunners -- one on a third-strike wild pitch and another on a one-out walk in the fourth.
"Every time I faced Hilmar, I threw nothing but fastballs," Flamion said. "I knew that I needed to throw more offspeed pitches today to keep them off-balance, and it helped out. When I started throwing my curve for strikes, I knew it was going to be a good day."
Then, the heroes:
Alec Dilallo almost didn't make the Raiders' starting lineup this season for reasons of fitness. But months of working out allowed the senior to lose 20 pounds.
"He lost the weight just to get in the lineup," Glines said. "He's one of those hard-working, never complaining kids who makes things work."
Dilallo had the game's first hit, a leadoff double in the second inning that spurred a four-run uprising. He had a two-run single in Central's four-run fourth, then ended the game with a two-run double to left center.
"I dropped weight, worked out in the offseason and lifted weights," Dilallo said. "I just got stronger and it paid off this season. This year was all about not taking it for granted because we don't have the talent here that we've had in the past. We're a hard-working group and it paid off."
Patrick Trinkler, another senior, accepted a move off the infield to give the outfield more speed when Flamion is pitching. He responded in his final game with two hits and two runs.
Second baseman Maverick Elie probably should not have been playing because of a rotator cuff strain, but all he did was reach base three times from his leadoff spot and score three runs.
And, with two outs in the top of the fifth, his over-the-shoulder catch of a pop to shirt right off the bat of Raine Martinez preserved the no-hitter.
Catcher C.J. Carson took a bad hop ground ball in the mouth last week, loosening some teeth. But he was behind the plate for Flamion's no-no, and added a single in the four-run second inning.
And Justin Pawek started in center because Flamion was on the mound. His triple drove in the game's first two runs, and he added an RBI single in the fourth.
Despite being no-hit, Hilmar's path to the final was a remarkable journey. The YellowJackets began the season 6-13 before catching fire just in time to reach the playoffs -- a run that didn't include many performances like Monday's five-error effort.
"We've made very few errors in the playoffs, but a lot of guys had jitters tonight," said coach Justin Steelman. "I never would have guessed we'd make it this far. The kids found it deep within themselves to make it here, and they need to keep their heads up because it's special just to be here. We made a good run at this."
Of the 19 players on Hilmar's roster, only six were seniors. Similarly, Central had only four seniors on its roster, leaving 14 players already thinking about an 11th straight section title.
The only guarantee is that the Raiders won't be take No. 11 for granted.
"This never gets old," Glines said. "When it does get old, it means you're expecting to do it. Every once in a while you have to step back to appreciate what we're doing here."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2300.