Central muscles way into title

LODI — There has never been a more dominant baseball program in the Sac-Joaquin Section than the powerhouse that Mike Glines has built at Central Catholic High.

The Raiders have won 10 consecutive section championships — and on Memorial Day they hope to extend that streak to 11 years.

Junior Billy Flamion put the Raiders in position for such a feat by firing a two-hitter in the do-or-die game, leading Central past Linden 10-1 to win their best-of-three series.

That game was needed because Linden ace Aaron Judge, a 6-foot-6 pitcher who is signed to play at Fresno State, hurled a two-hitter to beat Central 12-3 earlier Wednesday night.

Central (22-3), which scored three runs in the first inning of the nightcap and added two more in the second for a commanding lead, will face rival Escalon for the championship.

The title game will be played at Zupo Field in Lodi on Monday, and the time will be announced today.

Central beat Escalon 10-8 in the 2007 section final, a game that was tied at 8 in the sixth.

If nothing else, Central showed it is capable of rebounding from a horrible defeat. Linden pounded out 17 hits against No. 2 starter Chris Sauls and reliever Sebastian Hernandez in the opener. Howard Knapp was a beast at the plate, going 4-for-5 with four RBIs.

Central decided to save Flamion for the "if necessary" game, rather than run him out to square off against Judge. Linden lacks a solid No. 2 pitcher, so a "Flamion vs. anyone" matchup on the mound favored the Raiders.

That was clear from the start.

With Central batting first, C.J. Carson belted a two-run triple, driving in Nico Hernandez and Dylan Swartz, then he scored on a wild pitch for a 3-0 lead.

Flamion struck out the side in the bottom of the first, an ominous for the red-hot Lions.

Central struck again in the second, as Flamion was hit by a pitch and scored on a single by Swartz. Sebastian Hernandez made it 5-0 when his sacrifice fly scored Swartz.

Swartz added a two-run double in the fifth, a shot to center that made it 10-0. Nico Hernandez, who went 2-for-2 and walked three times to reach bases all five of his plate appearances, scored four runs and had a hand in each of Central's four outbursts.

Flamion, who threw 140 pitches a week ago in the Raiders' playoff-opening win, tossed 142 pitches and went the distance vs. Linden.