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Sierra salvages series split with hard-nosed win
SHS OHS1-4-19-13
Sierra second baseman Jacob Souza waits for the throw as Oakdales Sean Harrity slides under his glove for a steal. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Sierra had to grind out its 3-2 win over visiting Oakdale on Thursday.

“A lot of our games have been that way,” Sierra coach Jack Thomson said.

That experience paid off, as the resilient Timberwolves (5-3, 12-7-1 overall) forced a series split with the defending Valley Oak League champion Mustangs (6-2, 13-8) and remain tied for third place. Sierra could have come away with a sweep but blew a four-run lead in Tuesday’s 8-6 loss in Oakdale.

“It was a good win. Our guys deserved this,” Thomson said.

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Timberwolves found ways to get the job done.

They belted five hits off Oakdale ace Bryce Dyrda, yet only one of them left the infield. Their runs were plated via a bases-loaded walk and two sacrifice flies. Kyle Oden, who started on the hill for Sierra, drew the run-scoring walk in the third inning after Jacob Souza (2 for 4) reached with a bunt single. Two batters later, Joseph Collett drove in Marc Wilson (2 for 3) with a fly to deep center. Wilson scored again in the fourth on Oden’s sacrifice to left.

“We had great at-bats this week,” Thomson said. “Today we saw a very good pitcher, so we had to take what we could get. I thought Jacob’s bunt was huge.”

Dyrda was relieved after 3 1/3 innings. He struck out four but walked four.

Pitching and defense weren’t always sharp for Sierra, but they came through in key moments. Oden lasted 4 2/3 innings in the win, giving up two runs (one earned), four hits, four walks and two hit batters while striking out two. Navigating through Oakdale’s tough lineup began to wear on the lefty by the end of his outing.

Hunter Peterson pitched 2/3 of an inning, and Dakota Conners worked the final 1 2/3 for a hard-earned save.

Ericksen Dickens went 3 for 3 with a walk and a double to lead Oakdale, and clean-up hitter Nik Garza was 2 for 3 with an RBI.

“It was tough in the end, I was getting kind of tired,” Oden said. “Other than that, I just wanted to throw strikes, let them hit it and let the defense play defense. Luckily they made some plays because there were some hard-hit balls.”

Defense helped Sierra secure the victory, with both Ian Rodriguez and Conners making up for earlier mistakes.

While playing shortstop, Conners allowed Colt Parshall to reach on an error at the start of the sixth inning. Moments later, Conners took over on the mound with one out, runners on the corners and leadoff batter Nick Ippolito at the plate. He picked off Oakdale runner Christian Acosta at first base to start a rundown ended by Conners’ tag. Conners then got Ippolito to ground out to second.

In the seventh, Rodriguez, whose overthrow led to Oakdale’s unearned run in the fifth, punctuated the win with a big play of his own. The Mustangs again threatened with runners on first and second and sent pinch-hitter Garret Bryhni to the batter’s box with two away.

Bryhni swung at a 1-0 pitch and delivered a slow-rolling grounder down the third-base line. Rodriguez charged, scooped and threw out the runner at first by a half step.

“I practice that play a lot,” Rodriguez said. “Our coaches always have us work on bunt plays. That’s how you win, by making more plays than the other team.”