STOCKTON — Missed opportunities spoiled Buhach Colony's comeback bid as the Pitman Pride held on for a 5-4 win on Saturday in the third round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 South baseball playoffs at the University of the Pacific's Klein Family Field.
The Thunder couldn't overcome the Pride's four-run outburst in the third inning as Buhach Colony left 10 runners on base.
"We left a few out there," Thunder coach Greg Wakefield said. "The first couple innings we didn't really swing the bats well. We should have scored at least one more in the first inning. We really didn't have our best day at the plate."
Pitman (17-12-1), which finished third in the Central California Conference behind the Thunder and Turlock, will play St. Mary's (18-12) in a winners bracket game tonight at 7 at UOP. Buhach Colony (19-11) will face Turlock (26-2) today at 4 p.m. in an elimination game.
Wakefield wasn't sure who would start on the mound. Ace Daulton Jefferies may be an option, but he'll have to wait and see if he'll be ready after throwing 105 pitches against Tracy on Thursday.
Buhach Colony might be kicking itself because the Thunder hitters weren't able to do more against Pitman starter Derek Finney, who came into Saturday's game with a 7.77 ERA.
The Thunder had an opportunity for a big inning in the bottom of the first. Brandon Young singled in Jefferies to give Buhach Colony a 1-0 lead. However, Young was eventually thrown out at home on a ground ball to third and the Thunder left two other runners on base.
Kaden Verdin started on the mound for Buhach and cruised through the first two innings after throwing six no-hit innings against Stagg on May 13 in the Thunder's playoff opener.
The Pride finally got to Verdin in the top of the third as Kody Brackett hit a home run over the left-field wall to start the inning. Verdin then loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter.
Wakefield went to Jonathan Ruiz, who was called for a balk to force in one run. Trevor Chaney then doubled to left to plate two more runs to give the Pride a 4-1 lead.
"We were trying to get three innings out of Kaden and we were really close," Wakefield said. "Things happen in playoff baseball. Today it was a completely different strike zone and we didn't adjust really well."
Ruiz settled in after the third inning, giving up only one more run the rest of the way.
"It took a while to find my rhythm, but I felt good after that," Ruiz said.
Jefferies hit a two-run single in the fourth inning to cut the lead to 5-3, but the Thunder left the bases loaded.
Pitman ace Jordan Gonzalez came on in the sixth inning with Buhach Colony again threatening with two runners in scoring position with one out. Gonzalez got out of the jam with a ground ball to third. The Thunder's Zack Bianchi froze on his way to the plate as Pride third baseman Trevor Chaney fielded the ball. Chaney threw to first for the out and Pitman's Byron Baker then threw out Bianchi at the plate to end the inning.
"That was tough," Wakefield said. "We could have made it easier on ourselves by hitting the ball where we're supposed to. We work hard on hitting the ball up the middle when the infield is playing back like that. We messed it up after that. Again, we're not the most experienced team in the world."
A single in the bottom of the seventh inning by Ruiz helped the Thunder cut the deficit to 5-4. Buhach had the tying run at third base with two outs, but Gonzalez was able to strike out Darin Dupont on a 2-2 fastball that was clocked at 92 mph by the stadium radar gun.
"It's tough," Ruiz said. "We fell short. We didn't start swinging our bats early enough."