State - INACTIVE

Oakdale plays way into D4 final series

SACRAMENTO — It's back to the Sac-Joaquin Section title game for Oakdale High's baseball team, which is shooting for its third Division 4 championship in four years.

Oakdale got its berth with a 4-2 win over Rio Linda, sweeping the best-of-3 semifinal series. Oakdale (22-8) will face El Dorado (23-6) on Memorial Day, with the time and location to be announced today.

El Dorado got its spot in the final by beating Manteca 5-1 to sweep its best-of-3 series.

The Mustangs won the section in 2007 and 2008, but were eliminated in the semifinal series last year. Oakdale and El Dorado, league champions, are 3-0 in the playoffs.

"Having been here before, I think that's an advantage because our kids know what's facing them," Oakdale coach Hondo Arpoika said.

"Three times in four years, that feels real good. It's the result of the kids pushing each other each day in practice and games."

Junior Brennon Williams (8-1) dominated Rio Linda (21-8), striking out 12 and walking one while going the distance. He allowed four hits and two unearned runs, the result of a first-inning error.

Oakdale tied it with two runs in the second, as Tanner Combs singled and moved to third on Zach Abbott's double down the left-field line. Cole Branch followed with a two-run double into right-center.

It remained that way into the sixth, with the left-handed Williams and Rio Linda ace Miles Chambers (9-2) hurling zeroes at one another.

The Knights cracked first, but under surprising circumstances. The top of the sixth opened with two quick outs, before Combs singled again.

Abbott followed with a single, then Branch walked to load the bases. Joey Machado hit a ball deep into the hole on the left side. Branch had a big lead from first and his arrival at second coincided with the throw — perhaps that's why the second baseman bobbled the ball before it rolled away.

While that was going on, Combs and Abbott came in to make it 4-2. That was plenty of production for Williams,

"Brennan was spotting the ball well, keeping it down and mixing off-speed pitches to keep them off balance," said Arpoika, who watched Williams overpower Lincoln in a 10-0 first-round win.

Manteca trailed 5-0 when it loaded the bases on singles by Matt Barber and Michael Timmins, and a walk to No. 3 hitter Daniel Miramontes.

Matt Burrows hit a hard shot to the left side, but the shortstop plucked it to start a 6-4-3 double play. Barber scored to make it 5-1, but the electricity was gone for the Buffs. The next batter lined a ball off the pitcher, but it ricocheted to an infielder who tossed it to first to end it.

It was Manteca's first appearance in the semifinals.

"We had never gotten out of the first round before, so this is a big week for us," said Gene Ballardo, in his second year coaching the Buffaloes. "These guys are already looking forward to next season."

Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at restrada@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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