Derek Slate didn’t want to make the moment too big.
The Merced senior came up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded in a scoreless game.Slate did his best not to think and just react.
"I was trying to get something I could lift in the air and drive in a run," Slate said. "Luckily, I did my job."
Slate deposited a walk-off single to left field to score Sean Conway to give the Bears a thrilling 1-0 win over Turlock on Tuesday afternoon at Merced High.
Slate was mobbed by his teammates after the hit.
"I don’t know if there are any injuries, I’ll have to check for bruises when I get home," Slate said.
Slate’s heroics ended a terrific pitching duel between Merced’s Jared Reyna and Turlock’s Tyler Murphy.
It was a much different matchup then the last time the two teams met in the playoffs last year that saw Turlock pound Merced 23-2.
Reyna started that game for the Bears (3-0 Central California Conference, 7-4 overall) and didn’t last long.
This year, he’s a much different pitcher and he continued his run of stellar performances. The Bears lefty gave up just five hits in 8 innings as he extended his scoreless streak to 20 innings.
The Merced senior appeared to be pitching on fumes late in the game, but worked his way out of jams with pure guts.With two outs in the seventh he loaded the bases with a hit batter and back-to-back walks.
However, Merced first baseman Ashton Guerrero made a great running catch near the fence in foul territory to keep the game scoreless.
“Huge play,” Merced coach Lou Souza said. “We do pop fly drills in practice. He made a play the other day where he slid into the fence. He takes the drill seriously.
“He’s not our fastest guy. I look down the line and see him make a heck of a play.”
Murphy was just as good. The Bulldogs right-hander only allowed one Bears runner to reach third base in his eight innings of work. He gave up just four hits.
“He was good at getting that first fastball over for a strike and then he went offspeed, offspeed,” Slate said.
Sean Conway led off the ninth with a double off of Turlock reliever Ryan Cumberland.
Conway moved up to third on a wild pitch. With one out, Turlock intentionally walked Guerrero and Joseph Salmeri to load the bases.
That set the stage for Slate, and on a 1-1 pitch, he sent the Bears home happy.
“He started me with a fastball away and then came back with a changeup,” Slate said. “I was looking offspeed and he left a curve up. I’m glad I helped my team win.”
Buhach Colony 6, Pitman 0
TURLOCK -- The Thunder opened with a bang, scoring four runs in the top of the first inning. Buhach Colony sent eight batters to the plate, scratching out five hits. The inning was highlighted by a leadoff triple by Kert Woods, a squeeze bunt by Kevin Mendoza and an RBI double by Matt Sellers, who went 3 for 4.
Atwater 7, Golden Valley 2
Tyler Zeller led the Atwater offense with a pair of singles.