YOUNTVILLE -- Offspeed pitchers have often been the Merced Volunteers' kryptonite.
Over the years, the Volunteers have always preferred to take their hacks against a flamethrower rather than a pitcher whose ball spins, drops or dances its way through the strikezone.
Enter San Bernardino's Wesley Meyer.
The 5-foot-10 right-hander frustrated Merced hitters with his assortment of tricky pitches.
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The Volunteers didn't make the needed adjustments in time and saw their season and their bid for a third straight state championship come to an end with a 7-3 loss on Monday morning in the American Legion State Tournament.
"All summer long we've had trouble against slow pitchers," Merced's J.C. Barcelo said. "We just can't keep our weight back and we roll over. We do our best, we just get impatient."
Meyer threw just enough fastballs to keep the Merced hitters honest.
The San Bernardino starter mixed in a curveball, changeup and even a knuckleball to go the distance. Meyer gave up three runs on just seven hits.
"We've always had trouble against those guys over the years," Merced manager Rollo Adams, whose team ended the summer with a 20-16 record. "We tell the guys to move up in the box and to look for certain pitches. We just didn't make the adjustments."
Merced starter Garrett Adams did his best to keep the Vols in the game.
The right-hander gave up just one run through the first six innings.
San Bernardino struck first on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Chase Phillips in the top of the fourth inning. The Volunteers answered back with an RBI single by Barcelo in the bottom of the inning.
The game stayed that way until the top of the seventh. It appeared Adams was going to get out of the inning unscathed.
With one out and a runner on first, Adams got Jeffrey Ricker to hit a possible inning-ending double play ball to second baseman Art Corona. However, Corona's flip to shortstop Tynan Pedretti at second was into the runner and ended up in left field to put runners on first and third with one out.
That opened the door for San Bernardino.
Adam Quinlana hit the next pitch over the left-field fence for a three-run homer and San Bernardino went on to score six runs in the inning to take a 7-1 lead.
"We fell apart," Rollo Adams said. "Once again our defense let us down. That double play ball would have got us out of the inning. After that they kicked the door down."
The Volunteers made four errors in the game.
Merced threatened in the bottom of the ninth inning against Meyer.
Garrett Boothe and Garrett Adams each hit RBI singles that helped the Vols cut the lead to 7-3.
Merced had the bases loaded with one out when Peter Sandino hit a flyball to shallow center.
San Bernardino center fielder Andrew Crowley made the catch and fired home to nail Boothe to end the game.
Just like that, Merced's season was over.
"I told them to be proud," said Rollo Adams, who led the Vols to three state titles in the last four years. "We won with dignity and when they walked out of this ballpark they should walk out with their heads held high. I told them I love them."
The loss was especially tough on the Merced coach. Adams is handing over the Legion program to assistant coach Joel Pedretti next summer. Although, Adams plans to continue to be apart of the program in some capacity.
"It didn't hit me until the last out," said Adams, who hugged each player after the game. "I had a hard time saying the things I wanted to say to the kids. I kept it short.
"I've been talking for the last 17 years. It's about time they hear somebody else, but I won't be too far away."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.