Merced, Atwater turn to their aces in playoffs

05/11/2014 10:47 PM

05/11/2014 11:21 PM

It’s hard to find another team in the Sac-Joaquin Section with more momentum heading into the postseason than Beyer.

The Patriots (19-7) bring a 13-game winning streak into today’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoff game against Merced (16-11).

However, it was the Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver who said, “Momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher.”

The Bears will turn to their ace Jordan Kemps to help contain a potent Beyer offense that has averaged over seven runs per game this season.

“He’s proven himself in big games,” Merced coach Justin Parle said. “He’s not somebody who is going to dazzle you. There won’t be 40 scouts in the stands, but if his mind is in the right place and he can locate, he can be tough to hit.”

Atwater coach Jarrod Pimentel also has the luxury of handing the ball to one of the top pitchers in the Central California Conference in Ryan Sanchez when the Falcons (17-6) open the playoffs at Enochs (13-9-1).

Both games are scheduled to start at 4 p.m. The winners advance to the next round at the University of the Pacific’s Klein Family Field on Wednesday.

While Enochs is making its sixth straight playoff appearance Atwater is making its first postseason appearance since 2001.

The Falcons had a mild celebration after clinching their playoff spot on the final day of the season.

“I think our guys really got excited the next day at school because a lot of the teachers and coaches who have been around for a while were shaking their hands and patting them on their backs,” Pimentel said. “I think that’s when it really sunk in for them.”

Pimentel expects his players to have some nerves early, but that’s where a pitcher like Sanchez can help. The senior right-hander was 6-2 this season with a 1.53 ERA.

“He’s been our horse the last two years,” Pimentel said. “We know he’s going to go out there and compete. He’s going to do the right thing on the mound and he’s going to put us in a position to win.”

Kemps has compiled similar numbers to Sanchez. The Merced ace is 7-3 with a 2.91 ERA.

Kemps will have to navigate his way through a dangerous lineup that includes Jack Large (.398 avg and 37 RBIs) and Connor Crawford (.430 and 24 runs).

“They can hit,” Parle said. “They’ve won 13 games in a row. They’re on a roll. It says a lot about what they bring to the table. At the high school level the name of the game is keeping guys off the bases. Offensively we have to take advantage of free passes. The formula is the same: The team that makes the least amount of mistakes wins. In the playoffs that’s magnified.”

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