That makes Friday’s Tracy vs. Lodi game in Lodi a showdown to decide which team takes second place, or possibly a share of first, in the San Joaquin Athletic Association, and will determine which team goes to playoffs.
With the win, Tracy’s second this week against Lodi, the two teams are both 11-3 in league play and tied for second place in the SJAA behind Lincoln. Lincoln is now 12-2 and clinched a playoff spot and at least a share of the SJAA title after the Trojans’ 14-0 win over Franklin on Wednesday. Lincoln has to beat Franklin again on Friday if the Trojans are to keep sole possession of first place.
Tracy coach Vic Alkire said he has urged his players to relax and treat this week’s contests as regular games, even though they know that they need to win each one to make the playoffs.
“We had told them eight games ago, we put ourselves in a position where we’re probably going to have to win out to get to the playoffs,” he said. “We do that by winning and live for the next day, and we’ve done that eight times.”
At the plate it meant being patient and waiting for the right pitches. That’s what worked for sophomore outfielder Tanner Turner, who had three base hits for the day, including a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning.
“He made a mistake and threw one down the middle, and I put a good swing on it,” Turner said. “Our team is playing really well right now, so I’m excited for Friday.”
Senior outfielder Brandon Jossey said he was thinking more about how he would remember his last game as a Bulldog player on Tracy High’s home field. He doubled to the center field fence in the fourth inning to bring in Tracy’s ninth run, and doubled again to left-center in the fifth inning to knock in Ricky Diaz for the winning run.
“It felt good 10-running them our last senior game, especially because last year they beat us on a walk-off hit on the seniors’ last game,” he said.
Tracy scored three runs in the first inning when Lodi pitcher Alex Lott walked three batters and hit two with pitches. Jacob Valdez got the only base hit of the inning to bring in Tracy’s first run. Kyle Moses and Turner both singled to start the second, and Valdez and Diaz each hit sacrifice flies to score two more.
Tyler Trew homered to left field in the third to score two, including Jake Shull, who had walked.
Lodi nearly scored in the third as Joey Armstrong and Ken Ruffin hit singles and moved into scoring position on Luke Simon’s sacrifice bunt. Lodi’s Chad Holley then hit a shot to left field, where Tracy’s Andy Levand charged up to make the catch. Armstrong tagged up and tried to score from third, but Levand’s throw from the outfield to home plate got there in time for catcher Dominic D’Souza to make the tag.
“I wasn’t worried I could make the throw. It was just how accurate I could get,” Levand said. “I made a good throw and it worked out.”
Tracy’s fourth inning started with Turner’s homer. Valdez was hit by a pitch and Diaz walked, and Jossey and Shull both followed with doubles to drive them in. Jossey then scored on a passed ball.
Tracy had an 11-0 lead going into the fifth inning with starting pitcher Diaz on the mound. He had struck out five batters and allowed four hits.
“I started off good and my arm felt real good. I trusted my teammates and just tried to come out and get ahead and throw strikes,” he said. “My offense really helped me get ahead. We came out and we won innings. That’s a big thing for me.”
Two outs away from an early finish Lodi got two more base hits and drew a walk to load the bases in the top of the fifth. The Flames’ Holley then bashed a grand-slam over the right-center field fence to keep Lodi in the game. Tracy’s Joshua Wesely came in to pitch and allowed one more hit before he finished the inning.
Moses opened the fifth for Tracy with a hit up the middle, and Turner bunted and outran the throw to first. Diaz drove them both in with a shot up the middle, and came around to score when Jossey hit his walk-off double.