The butterflies were definitely banging around in Ralf Vasquez's stomach.
Who wouldn't be nervous?
The Golden Valley junior was handed the ball with his team clinging to a one-run lead in the top of the seventh inning against Merced -- with two runners on base in front of the largest crowd of the year.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I was quite nervous," Vasquez said. "Every time I come in the game, I say a little prayer and that helped calm me down.
"Our catcher, Alex Fletcher, told me you're going to throw one pitch and get a double play."
Fletcher may have a future in the fortune telling business.
With one submarine pitch, Vasquez saved the game and clinched a playoff spot for GV by getting Merced's Brian Vasquez to ground into a game-ending double play, preserving GV's 3-2 win Tuesday night at Merced College.
"It's probably the easiest save of my life," joked Vasquez. "All that warming up for one pitch."
It was a thrilling end to a brilliant pitching duel between GV's Trevor Cesar and Merced's Nick Bernardi.
Golden Valley (8-3 Central California Conference, 16-9 overall) moved Cesar's start up to Tuesday so he would be able to start the playoff opener next Wednesday against Tracy.
Bernardi was back on the mound for Merced (6-5 CCC, 12-14) on just three days rest after pitching a complete game victory over Atwater.
"We were going to wait and see what (GV) did," Merced coach Todd Buchner said. "We wanted to make sure we matched up with Trevor.
"I asked Nick on Monday if he could do it and he said, 'Give me the ball.' "
One unearned first-inning run by GV was the only blemish for either pitcher through the first five innings.
Jordan Locke finally gave Cesar some breathing room with a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth, extending the lead to 3-0.
However, Merced didn't go quietly.
Ricky Franklin crushed a home run over the left-field fence off Cesar to start the top of the seventh.
Brandon Garcia singled and came around to score with the help of a couple wild pitches to cut the lead to 3-2.
After Cesar hit Tyler Coonce to put runners on first and second with just one out, GV called upon Vasquez.
"I knew he'd do it," Cesar said "Ralf's my little buddy. He saved me."
Watching its playoff hopes suddenly taken away after winning six in a row was a tough pill for Merced.
"I'm proud," Buchner said. "That's what I told our guys.
"To come back after losing our first four games like we did to make this game mean as much as it did...
"Then to come back (after being) down 3-0 in the seventh to get the right guy up with a chance to go ahead.
"We didn't quit and that makes me proud."
For Golden Valley, it was a night to celebrate.
Golden Valley still has an outside shot at grabbing a share of the CCC title if Atwater can upset Buhach Colony on Thursday.
"This was my goal," Cesar said. "After the last out of the playoffs last year, I stood at first base with Vinnie LaMattina just staring out at the field for a long time.
"I wanted to get these guys back to the playoffs."
Central California Conference
GOLDEN VALLEY 3, MERCED 2
At Merced College
MERCED 000 000 2 -- 2 3 3
GV 100 002 X -- 3 9 1
Trevor Cesar, Ralf Vasquez and Peter Sandino, Alex Fletcher (6); Nick Bernardi and Phillip Robinson. WP -- Cesar. LP -- Bernardi. SV -- Vasquez.
GOLDEN VALLEY --Garrett Borba 2-3 (2 Runs), Jordan Locke (2B, 2 RBI), Stefan Arnsberg 2-4, Kyle Black 2-2.
MERCED --Ricky Franklin (HR).
Records: Golden Valley 8-3 CCC,16-10 overall; Merced 6-5CCC, 12-14.