ATWATER — ATWATER The Buhach Colony baseball team couldn't have written a better script for its playoff opener.
Thunder head coach Greg Wakefield gambled by opting not to throw his ace Daulton Jefferies. Instead, Wakefield handed the ball to Kaden Verdin, who went out and threw six no-hit innings as Buhach Colony defeated Stagg 6-1 in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs on Monday at Buhach Colony.
"From the first pitch Kaden was ready to compete," Wakefield said. "He really stepped up his game.
"I had a good feeling about him. He got a little postseason experience during basketball. I didn't think anything would get to him."
Verdin was brilliant, striking out nine hitters as he pitched around two walks and two errors.
The Buhach Colony junior was told he might get the start over the weekend. During lunch on Monday he found out for sure he would be on the mound in the elimination game.
Verdin worked his away with his fastball and used his curveball as his strikeout pitch.
"I just wanted to be down in the zone and throw strikes," Verdin said. "I was trying not to give up too many walks."
The Thunder offense gave the 6-foot-7 Verdin a 2-0 lead early as Jefferies doubled and Josh Ramos singled to put two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the first.
Brandon Young hit a fly ball to left to score Jefferies and Justin Prichard singled in Ramos for the 2-0 lead.
Young and Prichard both drove in runs again in the third inning to extend the lead to 4-0.
"In the playoffs, scoring runs early changes the way the game has to be played," Wakefield said. "For us it definitely helps. It helps Kaden go out and relax and challenge the strike zone."
Verdin's performance helped the Thunder save Jefferies for Thursday's matchup against Tracy at the University of the Pacific at 7 p.m.
It's a potential showdown between the Cal-bound Jefferies and UCLA-signee Jonah Wesely.
"It'll be one of those games you want to see," Wakefield said.
It's likely to be a much different game than the 14-7 game won by Buhach Colony last year when the two teams met in the playoffs.
"We know they have (Wesely) who can throw 94 miles per hour," said Prichard, who went 2 for 2 with two RBIs and a run scored. "They have a right-hander who throws 88-91.
"We've hit against Daulton in batting practice. We've seen (Turlock's) Tyler Murphy. We're going to go out and attack fastballs."
Jefferies pitched the seventh inning against Stagg. The Delta King's Ruben Corona spoiled the Thunder's no-hit bid with an RBI double with two outs in the seventh.
Wakefield said he pulled Verdin out of the game to save innings and pitches in case he's needed later this week in the playoffs.