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Varsity Baseball Mustangs Perfect In Mark Dickens Invitational
Austin Meeks had a big day at the plate and on the mound against Escalon. Shown is the normal third baseman pitching against the Cougars.Leader Photos By Dennis D. Cruz
Catcher Evan Waite chases down a foul ball in action during the Mark Dickens Invitational. Leader Photos By Dennis D. Cruz
Senior Morgan Bairos slides safely into home plate against the Escalon Cougars during tournament play in Oakdale.Leader Photos By Dennis D. Cruz

With the recent Spring Break week, the annual Mark Dickens Invitational was in full effect in Oakdale. The tournament, which is in remembrance of the late Oakdale High School baseball coach, featured Escalon, Beyer, Turlock, Gregori, Central Catholic and the host Mustangs.

The three-day tournament began on Monday, April 22 and concluded on Wednesday, April 24. Oakdale went undefeated in their four games. The Mustangs had Monday off and played two games on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Under the hot spring sun, the boys took on Turlock and Escalon on Tuesday afternoon and followed up with a Beyer and Escalon doubleheader Wednesday.

In the opener, Oakdale edged Turlock 3-2. The Mustangs never trailed in the contest as they scored two runs in the bottom of the second inning. With the score 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Oakdale tacked on another run to go up 3-1. The Bulldogs’ seventh inning rally was held off and the Mustangs were victorious.

At the plate Josh Gerber had a two run single, and Max Moore hit a double and a sacrifice fly with an RBI. Oakdale had four hits in the game, those by Gerber and Moore as well as hits from Alex Daoud and Gannon Davis. Josh Garcia pitched four strong innings having surrendered three hits, one earned run and striking out three.

Shortly after the win Oakdale laced up their cleats and hit the field once more to take on Escalon. The Cougars took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth on an RBI by Luke Anderson but the Mustangs tied it in the bottom of the fourth and went ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, which would end up being the final score. Moore and Austin Meeks each had an RBI for Oakdale.

“It was important for us to come out here and win the first two games, everyone knows how important it is for us as a team, and for our community to be successful in the Mark Dickens Invitational,” said Mustangs coach Chris Henry.

Wednesday afternoon, Oakdale took on Beyer. The Patriots knocked out Oakdale in the 2018 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs 8-0 and the two teams met earlier this season with Beyer beating the Mustangs 1-0. However, it would be Oakdale’s day to shine on Wednesday as the Oakdale bats erupted for a 14-3 win over Beyer. Beyer went up 2-0 on a Brady Cardozo home run in the top of the first. It didn’t take Oakdale long to turn the momentum around. The home team scored in each of the first four innings. The Mustangs trailed 3-1 in the second inning but scored four runs in the bottom of that inning. Daoud led the team going 4-for-4 with three RBI and a triple. Hayden Knittel also had a big day at the plate going 2-for-3 with four RBI, a double and a triple. Nathan Womack hit a two RBI single, Meeks connected on an RBI double and Jacob Solorio also had two RBI in the blowout win. Knittel’s big day carried over on the mound as he pitched four innings giving up five hits, three runs and struck out three. Marcus Juarez pitched one shutout inning, retiring all three batters that he faced.

Like the weather, Oakdale’s bats remained hot Wednesday afternoon when they faced Escalon in their final game of the tournament. It appeared Oakdale would cruise to another blowout win as they built up a 7-0 lead after three innings. This would not be the case as the Cougars scored six runs in the top of the fourth. Escalon earned their first lead of the game in the top of the sixth when Cole Gilbert connected on a two run home run over the left center field fence with one out, giving Escalon an 8-7 advantage.

As they had all tournament, the Mustangs responded with a big inning. In the bottom of the sixth Oakdale scored four runs to go up 11-8. In the top of the seventh Escalon scored two runs to make it 11-10 but could not make up the difference.

In the win Meeks went 4-for-4 at the plate and had three RBI. He collected two singles, a double and a triple in the contest and was also the winning pitcher.

“This was a big game for us, we wanted to finish the tournament strong and I think we did that today,” said Meeks.

It was his first action on the mound this season, and Meeks entered the game in the top of the fifth inning. He gave up eight hits, four earned runs and struck out four batters.

“It was one of those games, where we had to go really deep into the bullpen and use skills players,” said Henry. “He (Meeks) got the job done for us both at the plate and on the mound.”

Oakdale (15-6, 5-3) returns to Valley Oak League play beginning Wednesday, May 1 when they host Central Catholic (10-10, 4-4). First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oakdale will travel to Modesto on Friday, May 3 to wrap up the two game series with the Raiders. That game is also scheduled for 4 p.m.

“We need to keep this going, it’s going to take our bats, gloves, pitching and speed to come together to finish the season strong,” said Daoud.