STOCKTON — Mason Ankeney had a rough time at the plate Friday night, losing a three-run homer on a disputed call in the first inning and popping out with two runners on in his next at-bat.
He was all smiles afterward, though, after providing a crucial defensive play in Beyer High's nail-biting 10-9 victory over Lincoln in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs. The win sends the Patriots (21-8) into Monday's winners' bracket final vs. St. Mary's (22-6).
That game looked to be a lock for Beyer after it scored six times in the top of the fourth, taking a 10-1 lead. One more run and the game would have been called due to the 10-run mercy rule.
By the bottom of the seventh, the Trojans (21-7) had hit their way — with the help of several Beyer errors — to within one run. Lincoln even had a runner on first with one out, but that's when Ankeney provided his key throw.
After closer Matt Jackson struck out the first batter in the seventh, No. 8 hitter Daniel Perez blooped a single into right. With Beyer expecting the No. 9 hitter to bunt, Lincoln took a chance.
Perez tried to steal second and Ankeney came up firing, wildly pumping his fist as Perez slid into the tag of second baseman Garrett Roberts.
"With a left-handed batter at the plate, I was able to get a strong step forward while throwing to second base," he said. "I thought they might bunt because the leadoff hitter was coming up."
It was unusual to see Roberts taking the throw, as he typically would have been closer to first base for a left-handed hitter.
"Garrett knew we would be pitching to the outside of the plate, so it was going too be difficult for the hitter to pull the ball," Ankeney said. "He was trying to hit it to the opposite field earlier."
Jackson retired the No. 9 hitter on a grounder to second base to seal the victory.
"We got comfortable with the lead and then we got sloppy," coach Steve Clark said. " Roberts was ready to pitch if we needed him, but when Matt got the first out in the seventh, it was his game."
Jackson had relieved starter Kyle Crawford (4-1) in Lincoln's five-run sixth, after Perez tripled in two runs to make it 10-6. Jackson struggled with his control, walking two and hitting another, and allowed three runs before escaping the inning.
The idea that this could become a tense game appeared out of the question earlier.
Beyer scored three in the first, and would have scored more if not for a controversial call. Ankeney hit a ball deep over the left-field wall and it landed in the parking lot well behind it. The ball landed to the right of the left-field foul pole, making it appear that it was fair, but the home-plate umpire said no.
"The next pitch I get hit, and he makes me stay at the plate," said Ankeney. He didn't get first because the umpire said he did not make a sufficient effort to avoid the high-and-tight pitch.
Beyer used two big blasts in its explosive fourth, with Roberts drilling a two-run double into the left-field corner and No. 5 hitter Stephen Roy following with a towering three-run homer that landed close to Ankeney's.
"The big guy has been hitting 'em like that," Ankeney said. "We usually have guys on for him, and he produces. He's just an RBI machine."
Beyer had strung together five consecutive hits in the fourth, opening the inning with singles from Connor Torres, Crawford and Ankeney before the big swings came from Roberts and Roy.
Jackson or freshman Trey Ridenour, who had a one-hitter Tuesday, will start Monday vs. defending South Sub-Section champ St. Mary's.