Oakdale claims 4th straight VOL title

OAKDALE — Joey Machado isn't the fastest Mustang going from home to second, but Oakdale High's catcher hit one far enough so it wasn't going to matter.

His one-hop double in the left-field corner, with the game tied in the bottom of the sixth, led to the game-winning run as Oakdale beat rival Sonora 7-6 for its fourth straight Valley Oak League title.

"When the count got to 3-2, I just sat on a fastball," said Machado, who was leading off the sixth. "I adjusted to the curve. As soon as I hit it, it just felt so good."

The husky senior trotted into second without a throw, then gave way to pinch-runner Jordan Yussman. A bunt moved Yussman to third and he scored on Braydon Stephens' fly to medium center.

"We don't have the big stars like the last few years, so we've got to get dirty," Machado said. "We call it 'Okie ball.' "

Both teams are in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 playoffs, Oakdale (19-7, 13-2) as the No. 1 seed and Sonora (16-6, 11-4) likely the No. 3. Manteca (16-8, 11-4) can clinch the No. 2 if it beats struggling Weston Ranch in its final VOL game.

The VOL's fiercest rivals play Thursday in Sonora, but this was the game the Wildcats needed to stay in the title race.

The 'Cats did their best with four runs in the top of the sixth, taking advantage of four walks and an error to tie it at 6.

The Wildcats went up 2-0 on Jesse Foster's two-run double in the first, but it quickly was tied at 2 as sophomore Kody Simmons homered for the Mustangs.

"It was 2-0, so I was looking for a pitch in one spot," said Simmons, a righty who hit it over right-center. "I was looking middle and away, and it was just a reaction to step into the pitch and take it the opposite way."

Tanner Combs' two-run homer in the third to make it 5-2, and Brennon Williams' RBI double pushed it to 6-2.

Sonora belted some shots off Williams, who went five-plus innings and left with the bases loaded, but Oakdale's defense turned a few of those balls into outs.

Left fielder Matt Butler made a diving catch in the gap in the fourth, then Simmons produced a gem moments after Ryan Emerald tripled with one out in the fifth.

Simmons drifted into short center to get a high pop-up, and quickly set his feet before throwing. His throw arrived early enough for Machado to block the plate and tag out Emerald before he could reach the plate.

"I called it early, so I didn't have to worry about the center fielder," Simmons said. "I was ready to throw as soon as I caught it."

It appeared as if Sonora, which hopes to improve on last year's first-round playoff departure, could force a do-or-die season finale when it rallied for four in the sixth.

Two walks and Ryan Foster's single loaded the bases. Reliever Matt Butler walked the first batter he faced on four pitches to make it 6-3, but struck out the next two.

A grounder to deep short was mishandled and two runs scored, then Emerald's double into the right-field corner made it 6-all. After another walk loaded the bases, before Butler ended the threat with a strikeout.

Sonora can guarantee itself second place by beating Oakdale, but if the Wildcats finish tied with Manteca they will be the third seed. The Buffaloes swept Sonora in a doubleheader two weeks ago, and own the tiebreaker if the two have identical records.