OAKDALE — It was the goal of Los Banos High under first-year head coach Pat Fuentes to reach this year’s Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Once there, the Tigers ran into a program for which the postseason is only the starting line.
Los Banos pushed across a first-inning run on Monday but could do nothing from that point on as the Mustangs – winners of four straight and six of the last seven Division 4 titles – rolled to a 10-1 victory.
“I’m proud for the way we hung in today,” Fuentes said. “They’re young and they’re not used to this atmosphere or this type of baseball yet. It’s a good learning experience for them and the future is looking bright for Los Banos baseball.”
The Tigers, who earned the No. 3 seed from the Western Athletic Conference, finished the season 15-9. Oakdale, 18-8 and the No. 3 seed from the Valley Oak League, advanced to meet top-seeded Vista Del Lago at Lodi’s Zupo Field on Thursday night.
In the first inning, it appeared that Oakdale might be the team suffering from the most postseason jitters.
Corbin Lilledahl opened the game by reaching on an infield error, and Brevin Welch landed on second base when his sacrifice bunt attempt was thrown down the first base line.
Chris Corral walked to load the bases, and the Tigers appeared poised for a huge inning when Tyler Slayday lined a sharp RBI single to center.
But Oakdale starter Garret Bryhni got out of the inning without further damage, and Los Banos got only one runner as far as third base the rest of the game.
The Mustangs took control with a four-run first off Tigers starter Welch, then added five in the second off Christian Garnica.
Oakdale senior Bryce Dyrda, who committed to accepting a baseball scholarship to the University of Southern California more than a year ago, had an RBI single in the first and a run-scoring double in the second. He would go on to add two more doubles in his final home game.
“We’re hitting our stride right now after hitting a rough patch going through the second half of the league season,” Dyrda said. “Things are starting to fall into place. I’m happy with the results as is everybody else right now.”
Oakdale will take a six-game win streak into Thursday and has outscored its opponents 67-5 during the run.
Josh Gould held down the Mustangs over the final innings, limiting them to one run on five hits while allowing the game to avoid the five-inning, 10-run mercy rule.
Corral and Slayday finished with two hits apiece to pace the six-hit attack of the Tigers, who were making their first playoff appearance since 2011.