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Oakdale Baseball Cant Grab Blue Banner This Season
Oakdale first baseman Tanner Combs tries in vain to come up with an errant throw during Oakdale’s season-ending loss to Placer High on May 20 in Sacramento. - photo by JAGADA CHAMBERS/THE LEADER
The chances of Oakdale High not repeating as the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV baseball champions seemed ultra-slim during the Mustangs’ impressive run throughout the 2009 season, but those chances became reality as Oakdale was upset 4-3 for the second time by Placer High on May 20, eliminating the Mustangs from playoff contention.
Standout hurler Justin Jones put together another quality start for Oakdale, holding Placer to just four runs, behind three Mustang errors, and giving his club a chance at victory with their season hanging in the balance.
Placer just seemed to do everything right against an Oakdale squad that had not seen such a formidable opponent since their spring break trip placed the Mustangs against some of the more talented teams from the San Jose area.
The Hillmen got to Jones after Oakdale pushed across its first run in the bottom of the second, chipping across three runs in the top half of the third, sinking Oakdale back into a familiar position with the Pioneer Valley League’s second best club.
“We got the two outs and then we had the error,” Oakdale head coach Hondo Arpoika said. “All of those extra hits came after the error, so those are extra pitches he had to throw. He was ahead in the counts, but they were able to hit behind the runners.”
Oakdale was able to give themselves an opportunity to extend its season for at least the second game of the doubleheader, but a seventh inning rally was cut short when a Mustang base runner ventured toward second base with two outs and the rundown ended with him being tagged out, ending one of the more impressive runs in recent Sac-Joaquin Section baseball.
The Mustangs chipped into the Placer lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but would get no closer. Oakdale senior Craig Lefebvre tried to make things happen for his team, heading toward second base, in turn drawing a Placer throw to second, which, in a perfect scenario, would have enabled the Mustang runner at third base to tie things up with a steal of home. But the play failed miserably when Placer hero Matt Ross stepped off the mound and fired a strike to second base, sending the Hillmen into the section final.
The loss seemingly compounded a tough past few weeks for the Mustangs, giving the squad their third defeat in just four games, practically unbelievable for a squad that didn’t see its first loss for 20 games.
Vince Helms, Steven Gratigny and Logan Bruce all tallied hits in the loss, while starting first baseman Tanner Combs went 2-for-2, including an RBI double that plated the Mustangs’ first run. Lefebvre and designated hitter John Shatswell both smashed doubles to help pace Oakdale’s limited offensive attack.
“Obviously, our kids come and they expect to win,” Arpoika said. “We just didn’t get too many breaks our way and we didn’t create any our way.
“At the end, we just didn’t play exceptionally well.”
Oakdale left themselves in one of the most pressure-filled series the program has encountered in recent memory. A pristine effort in the Mustangs’ first battle with Placer would have left the squad a victory away from a spot in the title game, but the first game loss helped make an already tough hurdle impossible to clear.
There will be questions as to how the game’s ending cemented the finality to the Mustangs’ season, yet there is no room for argument as to whether or not this season has been a terrific success for the Valley Oak League champions.
“This season was definitely a success,” Arpoika said. “We were able to put another title in the well and enjoy some success. Our young guys were able to come up and get some experience and a taste in their mouths for the playoffs.
“We will continue to build on just that.”