Pioneer senior pitcher Carson Timothy pitches a 3-2 extra innings loss against Central Catholic in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division III baseball championship game Thursday, May 25 at Allenders Field in Latop. (Shawn Holko/Daily Democrat)
LATHROP, CALIF. — Two timely errors ultimately proved to be the difference in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Division III baseball championship game.
The Pioneers High School varsity baseball team lost to Modesto Central Catholic 3-2 on Thursday night at Islander Field in Lathrop. The No. 3 seeded Raiders (21-8-1) won in extra innings on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth frame to defeat the No. 4 Patriots (23-5).
“It was a game atmosphere, you got your best guy on the mound and he took (the batter) away,” Pioneers coach Craig Marquez said. “This is difficult. I thought we played better than them. We haven’t had the momentum and we’ve had a couple of games here and there. Other than that, I couldn’t be more proud of my guys and how they came back, battled and tied it in the seventh.
“I credit them, they’ve got a good ball club over there so they can take their hats off and rock.
Patriots senior pitcher Carson Timothy took a swing at the first pitch and hit a shot to left field in the top of the first out. Sophomore Luke Ferreira walked in the next at-bat to put two runners on the field with no outs to start the game. Timotheus was thrown out trying to steal third and the other two outs occurred on a swinging Ferreira.
Central Catholicism also began quickly. Senior center fielder Braxton Thomas blasted a solo home run that went more than 380 feet to right-center field. The Raiders left a runner on third but ended the first frame with a 1-0 lead.
A pitcher’s duel ensued between Timothy and Central Catholic junior pitcher Tippy Wentworth. The Raiders led 1-0 after three games.
Central Catholic added a run in the fourth frame following an error by the Pioneers. Junior catcher Fernando Alaniz reached second safely on what should have been an outfield fly ball on an error between left and center. In the next at-bat, junior utility Xavier Diep reached on an infield single, advancing Alaniz to third.
Alaniz scored the second run of the game after an at-bat from second baseman Von Anderson and reached first safely on an error in the Patriots’ second base.
It wasn’t until the final three outs, trailing by two runs, that the Pioneers’ bats came alive. Going into the finals, Timothy’s lead single became the team’s only goal. As they have all season, the resurgent Patriots refused to give up and rallied in the top of the seventh frame.
“We talked a lot during the season, about their grit and competitiveness. “I enjoy watching these kids play and I’m proud to call them players,” an emotional Marquez said after the loss.
Senior catcher Ryan Pearson led off the Raiders’ diving shortstop with a single to left field. Junior first baseman Mathias Michel followed in his footsteps and hit a single into right field.
Sophomore pitcher Drew Van Court then singled to right field and reached the bases without an out. With his high school career in jeopardy, senior Hayden Newsome entered the game as a pinch hitter.
Newsome took advantage of the opportunity by blasting the infield off the first baseman’s glove to score Pearson senior Hector Casas. Senior pitcher Nico Rodriguez entered the game as a pinch runner for Michel and took third on an infield single by Newsome.
With no outs and the bases loaded, second baseman Jack Cullison smashed a deep sacrifice fly that landed in front of the 325-foot fence in right field. Rodriguez tagged in and successfully scored the game, causing the hundreds of fans in attendance to erupt in cheers. The top of the seventh ended with a two-run home run, but the Patriots did enough to extend the run.
Timothy took to the mound for the bottom of the seventh frame. Central Catholic left two runners on and the game was tied 2-2 going into extra innings. Timotheus was pulled after seven innings and Marquez described the performance as “absolutely amazing.”
“Every time he steps on the mound, he’s expected to do that,” Marquez said. “Every time is different and every time it gets better and better. He’s a good thing to have on your team. I wish it was a little different for us.”
The UC Santa Barbara signee allowed five hits and two runs (one earned) with multiple strikeouts. Van Court, who is committed to Oregon State, is relieved. Both teams put two runners on in the top of the eighth, bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth.
A timely error in the bottom of the ninth frame was ultimately the Pioneers’ downfall Thursday night. Thomas led off the ninth with an infield pop fly, but successfully advanced to second on an error by the Patriots shortstop.
Following an intentional walk, Wentworth grounded into a fielder’s choice that advanced Thomas to third. Junior righty Adrian Garcia took the mound in the top of the eighth in relief of Wentworth.
With runners on the corners and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Garcia lined a walk down the left field line to give the Raiders a 3-2 D3 championship. Central Catholic rushed the field and dog piled to celebrate the win.
Final: Central Catholic won @cifsjs D3 Baseball Championship led Pioneer 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning on a walk by junior pitcher Adrian Garcia.@woodlandnews pic.twitter.com/xBscnvyZgL
— Shaun Holkko (@Shaun_Holkko) May 26, 2023
After two hits in six innings, Pioneer recorded four over the final three frames. Timothy led the way offensively with two singles. Pearson, Michel, Van Court and senior Ronaldo Ramos each had one hit.
The Patriots advanced to the D3 Division title with wins on May 9 against No. 13 Paterson in singles playoffs and May 11 against No. 5 Lincoln. Championship competition.
“He’s the epitome of this team. We didn’t win much in the first round; Then we went out and won the first one,” recalled Marquez. “We competed against Lincoln and won by a close margin. Then we went into Ponderosa, the number one seed, and these guys proved to be one of the best teams in the area.
“You know it’s going to be a close game in the group stage. They have a guy (on the mound), we have a guy and then we’ll see what happens at the end. (Central Catholic) were lucky this time.
The season may not be complete for the Patriots when the CIF regional baseball championships begin Tuesday. The fate of Pioneer and Woodland High will be revealed Sunday afternoon. The brackets will be released on the CIF website and can be found at the following link: cifstate.org/sports/baseball/bb_champ_info.
The Patriots hope to play at least one more game to continue the careers of eight seniors graduating this year. Timothy, Pearson, Newsome, Casas, Rodriguez, Ramos, Hayden Morrell and Max McClarin are in the 2023 class.
Marquez’s love for his seniors was abundantly clear after minutes on Thursday.
“I’m proud of them,” Marquez said, fighting back tears after being asked what the Class of 2023 meant to him.
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