STOCKTON — Like a proud papa, coach Ron Wayman speaks glowingly of his Weston Ranch baseball team for every sign of improvement it shows.
The Cougars took another step in their final nonleague contest Monday, edging visiting Brookside Christian, 9-8.
It may not appear to be a big win to some, but for the Cougars (3-5) it was much-needed. They were coming off back-to-back one-run losses to Summerville and Central Valley and earlier lost another by the same margin to Liberty Ranch.
On Monday, Brookside (3-3) jumped ahead 5-0 before Weston Ranch rallied for seven runs in the bottom of the second and held on for the victory. The Cougars found ways to manufacture runs despite getting outhit, 14-8.
“One of the things that we tell these young men all season is that it’s all about heart, and those one-run losses are heartbreaking,” Wayman said. “Getting this one after spotting Brookside five runs shows tremendous heart. They now know they can beat teams in close games. This is a gigantic step for us.”
Weston Ranch used five pitchers and saved its best for last. Ace hurler Tyler Scharnow faced seven batters for a two-inning save and did so on two days rest. He logged a complete-game three-hitter and struck out 10 in last Friday’s 3-2 defeat to Central Valley.
Scharnow gave up an inherited run — Jacob Matuska knocked in Steven Stockton (2 for 3, three runs) with an infield hit — in the top of the sixth to allow the Knights to close in. But he finished them off in grand style in the seventh by fooling the final two batters with third-strike breaking balls.
Scharnow now sports a 1.12 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 25 innings.
“Last year we lost him for the season with a hyper-extended elbow,” Wayman said. “This year he is throwing even better than we have ever seen him throw.
“Being able to call him in to close out a game is huge for us, but the thing about him is that he’s going up to us saying, ‘Coach, give me ball. I’m ready.’ That just shows his courage and determination.”
Second-year junior Jared Ferrari sparked the Cougars’ comeback in the second inning with a bases-clearing triple. He finished 2 for 4 with a double and two runs scored. Jesse Hurtado was 2 for 3, and it was his RBI single that knocked in Ferrari for the deciding run in the fourth inning.
Josh Campbell hit 3 for 4 with three RBIs and a triple to lead Brookside Christian.
Now, Wayman is hoping the Cougars are beyond the crawl-before-they-walk stages in their development. They will open the Valley Oak League season with a two-game set against Manteca on March 28 and 30. Manteca is the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division IV postseason runner-up in 2011.
“It’s nice to see them put it all together, especially after going down early like that,” Wayman said. “It’s because of their work ethic that they’ve come this far, but there is still work to be done.”