The tumultuous Valley Oak League baseball schedule has battered seven of the eight league programs for at least five conference defeats and left a mess of potential playoff seeds as five programs remain in contention for the final two postseason qualifications with just one two-game series remaining.
Meanwhile, Oakdale has emerged in the final week of conference play with a spotless 12-0 league record and guaranteed No. 1 seed into the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs on May 17.
“It’s a good place to be right now,” Oakdale coach Hondo Arpoika said. “It allows us to do a couple of extra things this week and get some guys some extra action.”
Arpoika said Oakdale will likely throw reliever Eddie Machado against playoff-hopeful Lathrop (6-6) today, May 9, and give bullpen arms Shawn Harrity and Drake Judd the hill during the second game of the series on Friday.
Oakdale took the pressure off their final week of play by ousting second-place Sonora on May 2 and 4. The Mustangs won at home to seal sole rights to the league title in the first game and added an 11-5 victory over Sonora on the road Friday for good measure.
Logan Handzlik pitched the first win after a five-inning outing with three hits allowed and three strikeouts. Machado closed for the save and landed four strikeouts in two innings with no hits and one walk allowed. Oakdale belted only three hits, but Kody Simons (run, RBI) reached first in all three at bats and twice belted a double. Stefan Aguilar was 1 for 2 with two RBIs while Mark Ortiz scored.
The Oakdale bats came alive in Sonora two days later after the Wildcats mounted a 5-3 lead after three innings. The Mustangs scored six in the fifth inning and saw Andy Morris belt another home run. Morris ended 2 for 3 with four RBIs and a double. Ortiz was also 3 for 5 with two doubles while Erickson Dickens ended 2 for 3.
Spencer Thomas, Nik Garza and Lane Branch all had hits in the win. Morris threw six innings with three earned runs and nine hits allowed. Harrity closed with two strikeouts in a perfect final inning to keep Sonora off the scoreboard.
Oakdale (21-4 overall) will tackle the winner of an out-bracket game between the Sierra Valley Conference and Western Athletic Conference No. 3 seeds on May 17 at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi. River City has locked the SVC No. 3 while Patterson, Central Valley and Los Banos decided the WAC’s final seed Tuesday, though results were not available at press time.
“You are in the playoffs now, so every team is pretty good,” Arpoika said.