SACRAMENTO — Oakdale High began its pursuit of a third straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV baseball championship Thursday much the same way it concluded its last two title runs.
The Mustangs got a strong pitching performance — a seven-hitter by Justin Jones — and timely hitting Thursday to shut out Whitney 8-0 at McAuliffe Field.
Oakdale posted shutouts in its championship games the last two seasons, as well, and seems to have the proper pieces to get a third.
The win sends Oakdale (25-3) to the second round, where it faces Placer (17-8) Saturday at 3 p.m. to open the best-of-three semifinal.
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"It doesn't matter that we have won the last two years," said Oakdale coach Hondo Arpoika, whose club scored four runs in the first inning and four in the sixth. "I know Placer will be gunning for us. We beat them the last couple of years, and last year it was in the semifinal."
An Oakdale-Placer matchup will produce plenty of emotion, considering what happened in the fall. Placer, following a court injunction that gave it a playoff berth, stunned Oakdale in the first round of the football playoffs.
Valley Oak League runner-up Sonora was not as fortunate as Oakdale. River City used a five-run second inning to beat the Wildcats 6-4, ending Sonora's season.
Oakdale wasted little time in getting on board, as leadoff hitter Vince Helms tripled to the right-center field fence and scored when Justin Jones lined a double in the same gap. With one out, cleanup hitter Dante Major — the third baseman on the last two title teams — belted a two-run homer to make it 3-0.
Logan Bruce tripled one out later and scored on Johnny Shatswell's RBI single, the first of Shatswell's two run-scoring singles.
That would prove to be plenty of offense for Jones, a senior lefty who has signed a letter of intent with Cal. He's also expected to be selected in the upcoming pro baseball draft.
"Justin was hitting his spots. He's been here before and he knows the pressure that comes with it," said Arpoika, noting his ace pitched a semifinal game as a freshman. "He lost 3-2 to Oakmont on three unearned runs, so he knows what's at stake. He lives for these sort of games."
Jones had 10 strikeouts and one walk, scattering seven singles, to raise his record to 11-0 this season.
Second baseman Helms provided some sharp defensive plays to help preserve Jones' shutout, Arpoika said. He added that junior Nick Vander Tuig (8-1, 0.82 ERA) is the likely starter for Saturday's game with Placer, which leaves Jones and Steve Gratigny (6-1, 1.66) in line for the second and, if necessary, third games next week.
RIVER CITY 6, SONORA 4 — The Wildcats (15-10) got off to a great start with three runs in the first, but began throwing the ball around in the second and that led to five River City runs. Dan Molieri and Garrett Everhart shut out RC over the final four innings.