WESTON RANCH – With a chance to sweep Weston Ranch and improve the chances of extending its season Lathrop High did exactly that, relying on a complete-game shutout from junior Austin Plunk for a 3-0 win Friday.
Plunk was solid from beginning to end, sitting the Cougars down in order in the final inning. Weston Ranch would only muster three hits, never truly putting Plunk into a situation of danger. The Spartans would push across the game’s first run when Ernie Garcia lined a double into leftfield and came around to score after nearly being picked off at second, yet escaping tag and then pilfering an unoccupied home plate.
“I won’t say today’s outing was a pleasant surprise, Austin is our work horse,” Lathrop head coach Randy Baltazar said. “He stepped up today. I had all the confidence in the world in Austin and he wanted it. He told me coach I can pitch.
“That’s a good feeling, knowing one of our guys who has not been seeing too many innings, wants to step up and take on that role.”
Plunk’s outing looked almost effortless for the lanky right-hander. He continuously got ahead of hitters with the fastball and worked well ahead in the count when he got there. Matching up with Weston Ranch ace Tyler Sharnow gave Plunk an opportunity he definitely seized.
“It feels great,” Plunk aid. “We were playing great ball the whole game so I just wanted to bring it home at the end and get out of here and go home.
“I didn’t throw one curveball the whole game; I was just trying to work ahead and stay ahead.”
Sharnow (7ip, 9 strikeouts) and Plunk had all the makings of a pitcher’s duel until the Spartans scratched across their first unearned run. The Cougars have show late game heroics on multiple occasions this season, but after another Lathrop base runner reached on an error in the sixth, back-to-back errors would usher him in.
“Their runs, all three of them, were gift wrapped,” Weston Ranch head coach Ron Wayman said. “The first one, no fault to the umpire, but everybody turned their back and walked away. Realistically, their six hits to our three, they were able to manufacture the runs.
“Randy Baltazar is doing a tremendous job with their team.”
The Spartans will try and continue to improve with a two game set against Sierra, followed by a VOL ending two game set with Oakdale. The Spartans have an outside chance to land a league playoff berth, but will definitely need some outside assistance.
“Every win is going to be a good win for us,” Baltazar said. “Sharnow is a phenomenal pitcher; he had nine Ks and made some of our batters look uncomfortable up there. It shows though, with him beating Manteca, Sierra and taking Oakdale to extras, it just shows that anyone can win.
“It does give our players a little boost of confidence that we’ve tasted victory against a quality pitcher.”