STOCKTON -- Mike Nelson and Derek Slate stood on the top step of the first-base dugout at the University of the Pacific next to a couple of their teammates. With their arms draped over the dugout rail, the Merced players stared out onto the field.
They didn't want to pack up and leave. It was just starting to set in that their season was over.
Turlock emphatically ended Merced's playoff run with a 23-2 drubbing on Thursday afternoon.
"It's tough," Bears shortstop Chad May said. "We all wanted to go all the way. We deserved it.
"We fought hard until the end. It's hard to go down like this."
Turlock (24-7) looked like a slow-pitch softball team as the Bulldogs smashed the ball around the yard against six different Merced pitchers.
"I've scouted Turlock their last two games and they've been swinging the bats well," Bears coach Lou Souza said. "It's contagious. The best example I can give from today is the floodgates opened today and there was no way we could close it. They were a great team today.
"This game doesn't define our season. Every coach has to give that speech down the line.
"We kind of made it our goal to come up here and plant our flag from the South part of the section. I felt today we just got ambushed."
Bears left-hander Jarod Reyna shut out Turlock 2-0 the last time he took the mound against the Bulldogs. Turlock hitters were on him from the start this time, pounding out four runs on four hits in the first inning and scoring a run in the second.
The Bears (19-13) answered back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second with RBI singles from May and Andrew Jaurique to cut the lead to 5-2.
Then the Bulldogs erupted. Turlock hit around the order twice in the third inning on its way to 16 runs.
The Bulldogs sent 21 hitters to the plate with Jeremy McDonald, Brent Backland and Ricky Fuentes all hitting three times in the inning.
Merced used five different pitchers as Turlock collected 11 hits in the inning.
"It's been a long time since I've seen an inning like that," Turlock coach Mark de la Motte said. "It's too long I'd like to say. It doesn't happen very often. We couldn't do anything wrong at the plate."
All nine Bulldog hitters recorded at least one hit in the inning and all nine scored at least one run.
By the end of the inning, Turlock had a 21-2 lead and it was clear the Bulldogs would advance to face St. Mary's on Saturday at 4 p.m.
After the sting of Thursday's loss goes away the Bears will have plenty of time to reflect on their accomplishments this season, which included a Central California Conference co-championship.
"These guys surpassed my expectations," Souza said. "I'll be honest, I didn't know what we had with Andrew (Jaurique) not being able to pitch.
"To win league and get the No. 1 seed with only two all-league players -- there was just a chemistry with this team."
Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Playoffs
TURLOCK 23, MERCED 2
At UOP's Klein Family Field
Turlock 41(16)02 -- 23 20 0
Merced 020 00 -- 2 3 2
Dylan Silva, Brent Backland (3) and Ryan Brown; Jarod Reyna, Mike Nelson (3), John Ramirez (3), Chris Romero (3), Chad May (3), Isaac Haggerty (5) and Phillip Parga. WP -- Silva. LP -- Reyna.
TURLOCK -- Brown 2-4 (3B, 3 Runs), Kevin Kramer 2-3 (3B, 4 Runs, 2 RBI), Ryan Cumberland 4-5 (2B, 4 Runs, 3 RBI), James Heller 3-3 (3 Runs, 3 RBI), Jeremy McDonald 2-2 (2 Runs), Backland 3-4 (3 RBI), Ricky Fuentes 2-5 (2 Runs), Tommy Evans (2 RBI).
MERCED -- Derek Slate (2B, Run).
Records: Merced 19-13; Turlock 24-7.