STOCKTON — It had been eight years since Turlock High's baseball team reached the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. Vince Wheeland made sure that the Bulldogs' postseason trip would last more than one game.
The unbeaten right-hander struck out the first six batters Tuesday on his way to one-hitter, and the Bulldogs scored seven runs in the fourth on their way to an 11-0 rout of Lodi to open the Division 1 playoffs. The 4½-inning game lasted just 1 hour and 20 minutes.
"He's already asking me about taking the ball on Friday," said coach Mark de la Motte, whose Bulldogs (21-6) face St. Mary's (21-6) in a 4 p.m. winners' bracket at the University of the Pacific. "We talk about guys who are competitive and like to win, but Vince brings that intensity to a different level. He's all about the game.
"He is as good as any pitcher we've had here. He doesn't have quite the velocity of Dan Reichert or Steve Soderstrom (both were drafted), but he's got great control. He only threw 50 pitches, and that's a playoff team over there. He was on."
Wheeland (11-0) wasted no time showing the Flames (18-9) why he is headed to Oklahoma State on scholarship. It was the third inning before Lodi put a bat on the ball — a slow roller between Wheeland and third baseman Ryan Cumberland.
That was Lodi's lone hit, and the runner was erased when Wheeland snared a soft liner and threw to first for a double play. The only other runner came on a fifth-inning error, and in that inning Wheeland struck out the side to end the game.
"We needed to make a statement and a win like this does that," said Wheeland, who struck out 10. "Everything was working today and I was hitting every spot. I wanted to get back in the dugout so we could hit again."
Though unable to exploit Wheeland's two-out single in the first, Turlock turned Ryan Brown's triple into a run in the second.
The speedy catcher ripped a two-hopper to the right-center fence and slid into third without a throw, and he scored on the next pitch when James Heller grounded out to deep short.
Lodi's Geeze Borges, a 6-foot-3 righty and the Flames' No. 2 pitcher, got in trouble in the third when Ryan Flood singled to center and Wheeland walked. Sophomore Cumberland — the Stanislaus District's top RBI producer — hit a two-run double to left-center and later scored on David Herrera's looping single to left.
That was going to be plenty of support for Wheeland, but the Bulldogs gave him even more with six runs in the fourth. Herrera's two-run homer over the left-field fence knocked out Borges, and Jeremy McDonald drove in two with a triple.
The Flames were forced to go with Borges because their ace had thrown Friday, a victory that clinched the playoff berth. Turlock, which clinched its conference title two weeks ago, was able to give Wheeland plenty of rest heading into the playoffs.
"He hadn't thrown since last Wednesday," said de la Motte, whose team pounded out 16 hits. "We've got nice pitching and we've got a good lineup, so we can do some damage if we get to someone's bullpen. It's a good team for a tournament like this."
Turlock's likely starter on Friday is McDonald, who developed into the No. 2 starter the last month of the season.
The first round is single-elimination and the four teams that survive> — Beyer (19-8) faces Merced (13-4) today at 4 and Lincoln (20-6) meets Tokay (15-8) at 7 — begin double-elimination play Friday.
ST. MARY'S 12, ENOCHS 0 — Louie Lechich, who has already signed with Cal, tossed a five-inning one-hitter and brought about the mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth with a three-run walkoff homer to center to send the Rams' (22-6) into Friday's game vs. Turlock.
The only hit Lechich allowed was an infield single by Enochs' Christian Kahler leading off the third.
Lechich, who opened the 2009 playoffs with a five-inning no-hitter over Buhach Colony, nearly allowed a home run to Enochs' leadoff hitter J.T. Boles to start the game, but Kurt Smith got a good jump and caught it up against the wall in left.