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Oakdale Forced To Prove Theyre The Better Team
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Signs line the way toward postseason play for the varsity Oakdale Mustangs, with player names and numbers posted along Valley Home Road, wishing the team good luck. - photo by Marg Jackson/The Leader
Every workout, every practice, every team meeting, every fundraiser, every inning and every game has been simplified into a must win double-header for the Oakdale Mustangs against Placer High in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Baseball Championship.
The Mustangs have cruised and clamored opponents since the season’s onset back in February, but now have found themselves entangled in battle with a Placer squad that has no interest in Oakdale’s long list of victims throughout the past 30 games.
“Obviously this was a big game for them,” Oakdale head coach Hondo Arpoika said. “We’ve been able to beat them the last couple of years, so it was huge for them to come out and get the runs early.
“They came out swinging and ready to play. They did a good job.”
Placer defeated Oakdale in the first game of their playoff semifinal round series. The Mustangs advanced from the quarterfinals with a relatively easy 8-0 win over Whitney but didn’t find the same fortune with Placer.
Oakdale will make the return trip to their late May home, Dan McAuliffe Memorial Park, today (Wednesday, May 20) and face a challenge that few Mustang squads have had to conquer over the program’s recent Valley Oak League reign.
“We’ve been here before,” Arpoika said. “We have had to win both games of a do-or-die before, so these are games that we have played before.
“These kids have been in big games. They’ve carried pressure all year long.”
The huge clash will undoubtedly have the intensity of a college playoff atmosphere and that is something that the Mustangs will certainly have to feed on. Placer will show up again as the Pioneer Valley’s second best team, but this time they’ve earned the confidence of knowing how this series can end.
“Whenever you have an opportunity you definitely want to shut the door,” Arpoika said. “So I would say they are going to come out hungry again and try and seize the moment.”
Even in defeat the Mustang pitching staff was able to keep Placer to a reasonable four run offensive output, but Oakdale’s offense will certainly need to produce more than its second lowest total of the season.
“We just have to make adjustments,” Arpoika said. “I won’t make excuses for anybody; the strike zone was bad and we knew it was bad, so when you get two strikes on you, you have to make adjustments.
“You have to know where his zone is and battle the bad pitches off.”
Oakdale was only able to scratch out two runs on Placer, the squads’ second lowest run production output on the season, making any pitching performance the squad received an afterthought with such low run support.
Oakdale senior Vince Helms was able to put together a quality showing, going 3-for-4 in the contest with an RBI. Helms’ efforts only had minimal success as the squad left him stranded three times.
If the Mustangs are able to continue to add to their impressive résumé with a doubleheader sweep over the Hillmen, Oakdale will likely find itself entangled with the better of the remaining PVL squads in a section title contest against El Dorado High on May 25 at Sacramento City College.
El Dorado is in a semifinal series with River City and the Cougars hold a 1-0 advantage over the Capital Valley Conference’s No. 3 seed. The championship is a one-game winner-take-all deal, with the losing team closing as the section’s runner-up.
“We have to go play baseball,” Arpoika said. “That’s all it is. We have to work on certain situations. That’s what it is in a game like that; you have to execute in situations.
“Everything is the same, it just happens to be down towards the end of the year.”