Atwater High hitters had a tough time solving Tokay ace Alex Dentoni.
The Falcons scored one unearned run in the first inning and that’s all they could scratch together against the Tigers right-hander as Tokay defeated Atwater 2-1 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs at University of the Pacific Klein Family Field on Wednesday night.
“(Dentoni) challenged and got ahead,” said Atwater coach Jarrod Pimentel, whose team ended their season with a 18-7 record. “He wasn’t an overpowering pitcher. He had a good changeup and a good curveball. We just didn’t do a good job against the first-pitch fastball tonight. We got in a hole.”
Atwater was able to take advantage of some Tokay mistakes in the first inning. Derek Molina led off with a fly ball to left that Tigers left fielder Jake Jensen lost in the sun.
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Omar Sanchez then dropped a bunt and Dentoni came up firing to third, but Molina beat the throw to give the Falcons runners on the corners with no outs.
Victor Tiscareno followed with a sac fly to center to score Molina to give Atwater a 1-0 lead.
Nick Dentoni, the younger brother of Alex, tied the game in the second inning with a solo homer over the 20-foot high left-field wall. Jensen later added an RBI single later in the inning to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
That was all Falcons starter Austin Conour would give up as he pitched into the sixth inning. Conour scattered seven hits and three walks as he gave Atwater every chance to pull the upset against the Tri-City Athletic League champions.
“I had heard (Tokay) was a similar team to us,” Conour said. “They aren’t amazing with the bats. They play amazing defense and have great pitching. I knew I had to come out hard. I lost it a little bit in the second inning, but I was happy with the job I did.”
Alex Dentoni went the distance, striking out six and only giving up three hits.
The Falcons did have an opportunity to tie the game in the sixth aafter Molina led off the inning with a double off the right-field wall. Pimentel argued with the umpires that it should have been a home run.
“I didn’t see it, I just tried to run hard in case in stayed in to get to the furthest base I could,” Molina said. “When I went out to the bullpen to warm up one of the Tokay pitchers out there said it hit the yellow line on top of the fence.”
The Falcons inserted freshman Christian Curiel to pinch run for Molina, so he could go warm up in the bullpen. Curiel strayed off the base too far and was thrown out by Tokay catcher Alex Meier trying to get back to second after a bunt attempt.
“Obviously Derek is one of our best base runners and in hindsight we could have left him in because that run was important,” Pimentel said. “But I also care about his arm and we needed to get him loose. Our guy got picked off. It happens. It’s baseball.”
Omar Sanchez followed with a double to give Atwater another scoring opportunity with one out in the sixth, but he was eventually stranded at third base.
“I’m so proud of these boys,” said Pimentel, whose team made the playoffs for the first time since 2001. “Our coaching staff couldn’t be more proud. I’m proud where we’re going. We worked really hard to get here. We’ve never been here. To lose a 2-1 ballgame to a number one seed, I tip my cap to our guys.”