State

Oakdale pitching duo keeping coach on grill

OAKDALE -- It's time for Oakdale High pitching coach Nate Gregory to fire up the barbecue again, and don't be stingy with the tri-tip, either.

"The pitchers have a competition with our coach, and he barbecues if we throw a shutout," said Ryan Vander Tuig, a 6-foot-3-inch right-hander who has already committed to UCLA.

The Mustangs earned a free meal Friday, as Vander Tuig and two others combined on a four-hitter and a 5-0 non-conference win over Pitman.

Vander Tuig (3-0) went four innings, increasing his total to 18 innings this season without an earned run. He has allowed four hits, striking out 27 and walking three batters.

Justin Jones, a left-hander whose nasty stuff has earned him a scholarship from Cal, struck out two batters in the seventh to seal the shutout.

It's the third shutout for Oakdale (9-0), the two-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section champions. Only once has it allowed more than two runs.

"It's a heck of a 1-2 combination," Oakdale coach Hondo Arpoika said. "It's like we've got two aces to choose from."

Jones and Vander Tuig combined to go 17-1 with 11 complete games while leading the Mustangs to a 25-4 record last year. They struck out 206 and had a 0.75 ERA in 131 innings.

"Both those kids, they are mature beyond their years," Arpoika said. "With all of the attention, from colleges and the crowds that come out to watch them, they're so calm."

Vander Tuig, whose brother Ryan pitches at San Jose State, said the key has been to not look at the scoreboard.

"We've got guys who can really hit, but Justin and I go out there every time thinking it's scoreless," said Vander Tuig, a .458 hitter with 14 RBIs.

His RBI double in the third made it 3-0 -- third baseman Vince Helms' RBI triple earlier in the inning broke a scoreless tie -- and Jones' RBI single in the fourth made it 5-0.

Pitman twice had two runners on base, including in the seventh, but Jones struck out the final batter to the delight of nearly 200 cheering fans.

"It's a different year," said Jones, when asked to compare this year's squad to the two championship teams. "I'm comfortable with the defense behind me and I'm having fun going out to play ball every day."

The Mustangs open Valley Oak League play next week, and the format gives them a significant edge. Teams play each Tuesday and Thursday, giving each pitcher a start.

Six of the eight VOL teams are above .500 and Oakdale beat VOL rival East Union in last year's section final, so Arpoika knows what to expect.

"We play a one-game season every time we go out," he said. "No one's talking about being unbeaten or going unbeaten this season. We just prepare for the next game."

Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at restrada@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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