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CHAMPIONS! Mustangs Top El Dorado For SJS Title
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Trailing Oakdale High’s baseball team late in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game, El Dorado players began to try out all kinds of superstitious hocus pocus.They donned rally caps, began uttering tribal chants and even started talking to loose baseballs scattered about the dugout.But destiny had another plan.Back-to-back strikeouts from Mustang reliever Matt Butler ended El Dorado’s final at-bats, awarding Oakdale a 9-4 victory at Lodi’s Tony Zupo Field and an SJS championship.“This is a phenomenal feeling,” Oakdale coach Hondo Arpoika said, moments after the blue SJS banner was awarded. “Everybody chipped in and everybody worked to make this possible.”Oakdale led just 2-1 after three innings, but scored three in the fourth and added four more in the fifth as El Dorado fumbled to four costly errors.The Cougars rallied back with three runs in the sixth and even loaded the bases to put the tying run on deck. The inning came to a close when Craig Lefebvre snagged a grounder and out-touched an El Dorado runner at third.Lefebvre had turned a routine single into a double when he caught an outfielder napping, and even made a valiant dive to first base on a sharp infield knock that nearly counted for a single.He could not have hustled more in his final game in Mustang uniform.“This feels so great,” Lefebvre said. “This shows what hard work and good players can do.”Brennon Williams started for Oakdale, and struck out six in six innings with just four hits allowed. He was switched to right field after loading the bases in the sixth, and watched Butler struggle with his control until a dominant final inning.With El Dorado hitters taking nearly every pitch, Butler battled to 0-2 counts and fanned each of his last two hitters for a crowd-rousing ending.“(Butler) has done that all year for us,” Arpoika said. “That’s what his expectations were, and he really closed strong.”Williams smashed an RBI double to deep right to start the Oakdale scoring and finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs. He plated Braydon Stephens (2-for-3) and Kody Simons (two-RBI double in the fifth) with a big hit in the fourth.“We knew that we had the ability to do this,” Williams said. “We came to play and we did what we wanted to do.”Seniors Tanner Combs (RBI double) and Joey Machado (double off the wall) each came through with monster knocks in big spots.The two were equally impressive in an earlier 4-2 win over Rio Linda that propelled Oakdale to the section finals. Williams struck out 11 with only three hits allowed in a complete game effort. Lefebvre (triple), Combs (2-for-3) and Zach Abbott (2-for-3, two runs) had big days at the plate while senior Cole Branch made a big slide at second to keep the game-winning inning alive.Oakdale went 4-0 in the postseason to finish 24-8 on the year.“These kids made for a tight mix of players, and they kept it together,” Arpoika said. “They did everything we asked all year.”