Turlock, Beyer take next step

STOCKTON — So much for parity in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 baseball playoffs: The four league champs rolled to wins in surprisingly lopsided postseason openers.

The combined score of the four games was 38-2, and two ended early due to the 10-run mercy rule. The four losers combined for just seven hits.

It was perhaps the most one-sided first round since the section playoffs debuted in 1976.

With the second-tier teams out of the picture, the action should be more interesting in tonight's winners' bracket games pitting Turlock vs. Lincoln and Beyer vs. St. Mary's at University of the Pacific.

Turlock starts at 4 p.m. and Beyer's first pitch will be at 7.

Unlike the playoff openers, where the losers went home, the tournament is now a double-elimination format that gives a team a second chance.

It puts a premium on pitching depth, because teams that lose tonight would have to win four games in four days next week to win the regional title and move to the finals.

"We should be fine with our depth in a double-elimination tournament," said Beyer coach Steve Clark, who credits assistant Matt Gibbs for helping develop a deep staff.

Beyer's hurlers also benefit with Connor Torres at short: Three times he turned likely hits into outs Wednesday, including throwing out two runners from deep in the hole.

Teams that win tonight will only need two wins next week to advance to the finals versus the Sacrament-area champ, and that's a huge advantage.

It allows teams to stick with their Nos. 1 and 2 starters, going to the bullpen only if they need relief late in the game. That's great news for all four teams, as each has a dominant ace and a reliable No. 2:

Turlock has one of California's top pitchers in Vince Wheeland (11-0, 0.59 ERA), tied for the state lead in wins, and Jeremy McDonald has thrown well since becoming the No. 2 starter in April. McDonald is limiting foes to a .233 batting average.

Freshman Trey Ridenour (6-2, 0.93) has become Beyer's ace, and he's backed by Kyle Crawford (3-1, 1.05) and Matt Jackson (7-2, 2.24). Crawford, who didn't pitch the first half of the season because of an injury, will be the starter today.

St. Mary's has Cal-bound Louie Lechich (5-1, 1.85) in its No. 1 slot, and Michael Hager (8-2, 3.27) and Kurt Smith (7-2, 1.94) complete the rotation.

Lincoln has a trio of hurlers: Josh Rodriguez (7-1, 2.33), John Oberholtzer (6-1, 3.85) and Tyler Sullivan (5-1, 3.19).