Josh May wasn’t looking to play the hero role. The Merced High sophomore just wanted to get the job done.
May did just that, driving a single to deep left to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Bears defeated Turlock 3-2 on Wednesday afternoon at Merced High.
“My heart was beating fast, I just wanted to do my job and get this game over with,” May said. “This is a great win against Turlock. We haven’t beaten them in my time up here.”
The win gives Merced (5-4 overall, 3-0 Central California Conference) sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
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It was a gritty win for the Bears after falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning.
Merced looked shaky, committing three errors in the opening frame to open the door for the Bulldogs. Brett Cumberland and Austin Bush both reached on errors. Cody Cornell then singled to left and the ball skipped past the left fielder to allow both runs to come around to score.
Bears ace Jordan Kemps did all he could to limit the damage to two runs.
“In that type of situation you just have to keep trusting your defense,” Kemps said. “If you roll a ground ball they’re going to make the play. It can be difficult, but you have to realize everyone makes mistakes. I know my defense is going to make the plays in the end.”
The Bulldogs (6-2) had opportunities to add to the lead, but twice left the bases loaded.
Two walks and a Brian Mendez singled filled the bases with one out in the second inning, but Kemp recorded a strikeout and a ground ball to get out of the jam.
A strikeout and a grounder left the bases loaded in the fifth inning for Turlock as well. In all, Turlock left 10 runners on base.
“If they don’t make a couple errors in the first inning we probably get shut out,” Bulldogs coach Mark de la Motte said. “We left a lot of guys on base. We can’t leave it up to the umpire. We have to swing the bat.”
Kemps settled in after the first inning and gave up only three hits, as he pitched around two walks and two hit batters the next four innings.
“You have to keep Turlock off balanced,” Kemps said. “You have to locate your pitches. The umpire was really giving me the outside strike so I needed to take advantage of it.”
Turlock right-hander Marcus Lopez pitched well, but ran into trouble in bottom of the third ining. With two outs, May blooped a double to left to plate Tanner McBurney with Merced’s first run of the game to cut the lead to 2-1. Mitchell Miller followed with a single to center to tie the game at 2-2.
The game stayed that way until the bottom of the seventh. With one out Isidro Mendoza launched a double to right off Turlock reliever Rob Domingo.
Merced loaded the bases with walks to McBurney and Craig Bettis to set the stage for May.
“I was looking to go the other way,” May said. “I was scared a little when I first hit it, but once I saw (the left fielder) running back I knew I hit it deep enough.”
Jeremy Mendoza picked up the win in relief for Merced, pitching a scoreless sixth and seventh inning.
The two teams face each other again Friday in Turlock.