Baseball: Mustangs trample playoff opponents

Tulare Western shuts out Paso Robles 4-0 in the first round and destroys Mt. Whitney 11-2 in the second round

TULARE – At the start of this season it looked like Tulare Western may never win a game. Now it looks like the Mustangs can’t lose as they close in on a Central Section championship. 

After going winless through its first 10 games, the Mustangs have won 18 of their last 22 games, including two dominating performances in the first two rounds of the Division III playoffs. Seventh seeded Tulare Western opened the playoffs with a 4-0 shutout of No. 10 Paso Robles Bearcats on May 17.

In the first meeting between the two teams this season, the game got off to a slow start with no runs through the first four innings. Between groundouts and fly balls, fielders on both sides were making it difficult even just to get on base. Paso Robles centerfielder Elliot Hawe was making plays all over the outfield to stop the Mustangs. 

The difference in the game was Tulare Western starting pitcher Jack Anker who commanded the mound. Anker had 12 strikeouts and only allowed two hits in the shutout performance. 

With both teams playing strong defense the crowd was on the edge of their seats waiting for the first score of the game. Both teams were able to get on base, but neither could make the final push for home. Finally in the 5th inning the game began to heat up. After Western’s Levi Villapudua got on first, a successful bunt by Johnny Callison sent him running. With a man on second now, a huge hit to right field sent Villapudua on the move again where he eventually found his way home for the first score of the game.

The Mustangs had all the momentum now and energy was starting to build in the stands. The bottom of the 6th got off to a hot start after a shot to left field from Ben Leon and a bunt from Anker left the Mustangs with two runners and no outs. Soon after, Jonathan Torrez landed a huge hit to center field and sent Leon rushing home. Pinch runner Ethan Arteaga, was on his way to second and Torrez was making his way to first when an error by the Bearcats allowed both players to advance. Then Callison came up to the plate and launched the ball over the third baseman to bring both players home and for two RBI. Western was now up 4-0 and would close the game out with great plays on defense to seal the shutout win.

“Once the offense gets going and we get confidence in the dugout that’s how it all transpired,” Tulare Western head coach Ken Searcy said.

The 18-win Mustangs went on to beat No. 15 Mt. Whitney Pioneers 11-2 at home in the quarter-finals on May 19. The Mustangs traveled to Hanford yesterday, May 24 to take on the No. 6 Bullpups for a shot at playing in the championship game.

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