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Oakdale Baseball Claims Vermulen Tournament Title
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A dive from Oakdale’s Sean Harrity nearly collects this Lowell grounder during pool play of the Vermulen Tournament. Oakdale won the tourney after three straight one-run victories to close action. - photo by IKE DODSON/THE LEADER
A come from behind win over Golden Valley advanced Oakdale High’s summer baseball team into the semifinal round of the Oakdale hosted Vermulen Tournament on Saturday.
A day later, the Mustangs took back-to-back one run games over Davis (of Yolo) and Pleasant Grove for championship honors among 16 teams.
And these weren’t just any teams.
Thirteen of the 16 programs qualified for the section playoffs this past spring, with all programs combining for an impressive 269-183-9 win/loss record in their respective divisions.
It was the perfect lineup of opposing squads to test Oakdale’s young lineup of varsity players for the 2011-12 season.
“It’s a great jump start to acclimate the incoming varsity players,” Oakdale coach Hondo Arpoika said. “We put them in a different atmosphere and put the pressure on them. It’s great of us to throw them in those situations and see how they respond.”
Oakdale players rebounded from a 4-4 tie with Enochs to top Franklin (of Elk Grove) in a 4-1 victory during pool play. The team punished Lowell 11-1 to open Saturday’s action, but found themselves down five runs against Golden Valley in the seventh inning that same afternoon.
A six-run final at-bat awarded Oakdale a 9-8 victory, pushing the team to a semi-final appearance against Davis.
The Mustangs won the game 6-5 and tallied the same score over Pleasant Grove for the Vermulen Tourney title.
“It was a collective team effort,” Arpoika said. “Everyone did a good job of hitting and did their part to move runners over.”
Nick Garza started the championship game on the mound and saw Hayden Rodriguez pull himself out of a jam late to close with the save.
Rodriguez loaded the bases with one out, but struck out a Pleasant Grove hitter and forced a ground-out to preserve the win.
Judd Drake and Justin Martin combined for a win and save in the victory over Davis in the semi-finals.
Martin belted a home run and triple with three RBIs on Sunday while Eddie Machado added four RBIs on two big base hits.
The tournament represented a 5-0-1 finish to summer play after Oakdale ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams went 3-1 and 2-2 respectively in the Lee Hampson Tournament in late June.
The program had dropped a double header to Division II North Coast Section runners-up Clayton Valley to start summer play, but ousted Enochs in a double header and finished a sharp 12-5-1 with a half dozen likely 2011-12 starters missing from the lineup.
“Missing some guys allowed us to give other players some looks at positions, and I thought the kids did a great job of improving the past few weeks,” Arpoika said. “The juniors on this team have been welcomed to varsity baseball.”