There were no tense moments for Sierra pitcher Jacob Peterson through five innings of the Timberwolves’ Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff opener with visiting Placer on Tuesday.
The 12th-seeded Hillmen of Placer did not have a runner reach second up until the sixth, but Peyton Stumbo changed that with a deep two-out double that nearly cleared the right-center field fence and put two in scoring position. That brought 6-foot-3, 230-pound cleanup hitter Leland Addison to the plate.
“I knew if I hit my spots I’d be able to get the out,” Peterson said. “I definitely got a little nervous but I had confidence in my defense.”
Addison worked the count full before popping out to left field. Peterson was able to preserve a one-run lead, and No. 5 Sierra scratched across one more for insurance in the bottom half to win, 2-0.
Peterson needed 102 pitches to get through six innings for the three-hit shutout, but he had no walks against four strikeouts. Chandler Dakin was just as impressive for Placer (12-13), striking out three while surrendering two runs (one unearned) on four hits and two walks.
“Their pitcher was very, very good,” Sierra coach Jack Thomson said. “I think he was probably running it up there 87-88 (mph) … and he’s as good as we’ve seen. JP matched him and pitched a great game.”
The victory is the 605th for Thomson, who moves ahead of Escalon’s Bob Loureiro for second most all-time in the SJS. Guy Anderson is the section’s winngingest coach with 927 over 45 years with Cordova.
Placer ended its season on a four-game losing streak. The Hillmen had a chance to tie the game on Stumbo’s double, but the runner ahead of him — Travis Warren, who had a leadoff single — stopped halfway to the plate and scooted back to third as Sierra was making its relay throws to the infield.
The momentum completely shifted back in Sierra’s favor in the bottom half. Mateo Molieri singled to lead off and was bunted to second by Jesse Ortiz-Martinez. The Timberwolves (16-9) loaded the bases after Julian Cantu walked and Peterson reached on an infield single. Slyder Blyth grounded out to bring in Molieri.
Placer went out with a whimper, grounding out three times to second baseman J.T. Ortiz-Martinez.
“They played textbook baseball at the time that they needed to,” Placer coach Tony Madrigal said. “It was no mystery what they were going to do and that’s how you score runs. They took advantage of some of our miscues.
“We had an opportunity to score a run on that deep flyball to centerfield and the guy thought I was holding him when I was clearly waving him in.”
One of those miscues was an early error that led to an unearned run for Sierra. Cantu delivered the RBI hit to score Molieri.
“Just wanted to put the ball in play and move the runner over,” Cantu said. “I knew I had a job. I just reacted and hopped on it. It was a fastball inside and I took it.”
Cantu also made a heads-up play on defense. With two outs in the fourth, Josh Marcione reached on an overthrow to first base but was thrown out at second by Cantu — the catcher who was backing up the play.
“Huge play,” Thomson said. “The only time people notice it is when that happens. If he does it every time nobody notices when the ball isn’t thrown away. He was there and that was huge, and that’s just competing. He’s a converted infielder and he has steadily improved at catcher. He’s made a big difference for us.”
Sierra next travels to No. 4 Los Banos (17-5-1) on Thursday. The Tigers came from behind to beat No. 13 Pioneer 2-1 in 10 innings. The winner advances to the double-elimination quarterfinal round and faces top-seeded Christian Brothers or No. 8 Manteca at a neutral site yet to be determined.
“It’s still a win-or-go-home so there’s a little bit of pressure, but I do like our pitching staff if we can get to that next round,” Thomson said. “We’ve got five guys that are fairly competitive on the mound.”