CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D3 semifinals between Cougars and Buhach Colony of Atwater had it all, including a fight involving parents and umpires, a batting practice forfeit, a forfeit reversed, and then a no-hitter that was followed the next morning by a winner-take-all matchup in Fair Oaks.
Note: We hope you enjoy this free post on CalHiSports.com. After the preseason, all weekly and final state rankings are available only to our Gold Club members as well as our state stat star of the week honor rolls. To check out getting a Gold Club membership to see all of those rankings plus all of our updated state record lists, totally authentic historical features, and more, CLICK HERE.
If there are high school baseball players in California that know the true meaning of their sport being absolutely and 100 percent about it played on a day-to-day basis, then those players are the ones at Del Campo of Fair Oaks and Buhach Colony of Atwater.
They were put into a hard-to-believe up-and-down series of outcomes (some off of the field) from last Monday through Saturday morning as the two teams met to decide a semifinal winner of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.
For those outside of the section, the Sac-Joaquin remains the only one in the state in which there is at least one round of a best-of-three series to determine a playoff winner. There is a double-elimination format still going in the CIF San Diego Section, but there are not any best-of-three rounds. And since this year both the champion and runner-up of the SJS D1, D2 and D3 playoffs will be advancing to the first-in-100-years CIF Northern California regional playoffs, the finals next week will be back to single elimination.
Del Campo will be the team moving on after Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Buhach Colony on their home field. The Cougars will face Vanden of Fairfield in the title game next Wednesday at Sacramento City College. Head coach Kevin Dawidczik didn’t even tell his players about the NorCal playoffs until earlier on Saturday and said afterward he wasn’t even focused on the result during the game but more about how everyone was reacting to a difficult situation from earlier in the series.
“Sportsmanship was more important today than victory,” Dawidczik said. “This morning, we were still angry about the week, about yesterday (loss was on a no-hitter). We made a commitment to release it. We just wanted to get back to us, back to our usual selves and we did.”
It all began last Monday. Del Campo had advanced to the semifinals with a win over Ponderosa of Shingle Springs to improve to 26-4. One of its recent wins was against SJS D1 finalist McClatchy of Sacramento. Buhach Colony won its quarterfinal game over Vista del Lago and had won seven of its last eight games with its previous loss to CIF Central Section D1 semifinalist Righetti of Santa Maria.
The 3-2 win by the Cougars was exciting enough as it came with a winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning. But there were some close, controversial calls by the umpires. Then after the game, two of the umpires were walking toward their cars and were seen on cell phone video being physically pushed and shoved by more than one parent/fan from Buhach Colony. You guessed it. The video went viral on social media, including calls for Buhach to be kicked out of the playoffs.
The second game of the series was scheduled for Wednesday, but there was another issue that had come up after the Monday game that was unrelated to the fans. Buhach Colony had video of Del Campo players taking batting practice earlier on Monday. That is a rules violation that usually results in a forfeit loss according to CIF section rules. Del Campo’s defense was that the practice had been done during its regular school day time and that it had provided Buhach Colony with the opportunity to do the same thing on a different field.
As many followers on social media were thinking that Buhach Colony might have some ramifications about the parental behavior toward umpires, the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section decided on Tuesday instead to postpone the second game of the series from Wednesday to Thursday, handed the Monday game to Buhach Colony as a forfeit win due to the batting practice rule and said no fans would be allowed to watch the second game (which was moved to a neutral site at Laguna Creek of Elk Grove instead of Buhach Colony).
CIF sections and the CIF itself, however, have an appeals process for those types of decisions and Del Campo said right away it would appeal to the SJS executive committee. Parents went to a press conference at the San Juan Unified School district offices to voice their concerns.
The second game of the series was put on hold again so the appeal could be heard. That happened on Thursday and in almost all cases like this that we’ve followed across the state the initial decisions by a section office is upheld. That didn’t happen this time. Del Campo won its appeal. The forfeit loss from Monday then reverted back to it being a win on the field. Game two was then set for Friday back at Buhach Colony with fans allowed (but with precautions). It was later learned through talking with veteran scribe Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee that seven parents from Buhach Colony were identified by the school on video and were banned from coming back to any games.
Del Campo could have avoided any further drama by winning the second game of the series on the road, but Thunder pitcher Cooper Lanz had other ideas. He picked the perfect time to have his best game of the year, although he did just recently have a five-inning no-hitter against Patterson and had a one-hitter against Golden Valley of Merced. Lanz spun a no-hitter against the Cougars. He only walked one and struck out seven. He also went 1-for-3 with three runs scored on offense.
That set it all up for a winner-take-all third game back at Del Campo that began at 11 a.m. on Saturday, really just a few hours after the end of the second game in Atwater (which is more than an hour’s drive away by car in Merced County).
There were a lot more fans than one might usually see at a section semifinal and both schools did their best to avoid any further troubles with more than one on-site administrator present. The game itself and the kids playing it were the focus and it stayed that way.
Hayden Hughes, a recent NorCal Player of the Week who has been Del Campo’s No. 1 pitcher and is one of the team’s top hitters, still had some innings and pitches left for him after he went all seven for the Cougars in the first game. He started and got through the top of the fourth inning with no runs allowed and helped himself with two fielding plays, one that was turned into a double play.
The Thunder nearly scored in the top of the third inning after a single and infield hit put two runners on with one out, but the lead runner was thrown out attempting to advance to third base after a fly ball to center was caught by Del Campo junior Matt Moses. He also had made a spectacular catch near the fence during the game on Monday that probably was a bigger reason for his team winning than any umpire’s call.
Cooper Lanz’s brother, Spencer, a junior, started on the mound for Buhach Colony. He pitched through an error in the bottom of the second inning, but the Cougars broke through in the third. Singles by Matt Moses and Anthony Martinez set it up, then with one out Jordan Jacobson came through with another single to score Moses. Martinez then scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0 before Lanz limited the damage by retiring the next two batters on a pop-up, then a ground out.
Del Campo added a third run in the bottom of the fourth as freshman Erik Munoz came in to pitch for Buhach Colony. Lance Moses, twin brother of Matt, led it off with a single and eventually scored the run on a sacrifice fly hit by his brother.
Hughes had to come out of the game for the Cougars in the top of the fifth and the Thunder responded. After a hit batter, junior catcher Ramiro Jimenez (who had earlier singled in his first at bat) launched a deep drive that cleared the right field fence for a two-run homer.
Dawidczik eventually would have to change pitchers and inserted senior Thomas Martinez. With a runner on first, Cooper Lanz struck a fly ball to right. The runner on first, Jaxson Percoats, had to hold with one out since the ball could have been caught. Instead it dropped. Percoats took off for third, but the throw there just beat him. He was called out, but he may have slid around the tag. The inning still wasn’t over, though, as another hit by pitch set it up for first and second with two outs. Logan Baptista then hit another fly ball to right, but this one was caught.
Del Campo was not able to add on any runs in the bottom of the fifth or bottom of the sixth off Baptista, who was pitching for Buhach Colony. Thomas Martinez gave up a single to the Thunder with two outs in the top of the sixth, but it was a 1-2-3 top of the seventh, enabling the Cougars to celebrate the 3-2 win.
There also was a moment in the bottom of the sixth that encapsulated the two teams and schools having the appropriate sense of sportsmanship. Freshman Egan Wyant was pinch-hitting for Del Campo and collapsed at the plate after his right knee apparently buckled. He was looked at by trainers and coaches for both schools, then was carried off the field. Buhach Colony head coach Joseph Medeiros was seen still bending over the injured player outside the fence near the Del Campo dugout.
“We talked to their coaches a few times during the week before the second game and we both wanted to make sure these boys were going to have a positive experience,” said Medeiros, a first-year head coach. “I’m glad it played out the way it did in that respect.”
Cooper Lanz was the player from the Thunder who had perhaps the most unique perspective. He is the one who pitched a no-hitter on Friday and then just the next morning was part of a team that fell just one run short of having its season extended two more weeks.
“After losing in the first game and the way it happened, I used that yesterday as motivation and took it to them,” said Lanz, who has signed a scholarship offer from the University of Pacific. “Unfortunately today was not the outcome we wanted, but I wouldn’t want to have experienced this week with any different group of guys.
“Baseball is a sport where you have to be ready every single day,” Lanz continued. “It’s a lot of ups and downs, but that is what makes it so great.”
Hughes was sought out to speak from the Del Campo side of things.
“It definitely was a crazy week,” he said. “I’m just happy it turned out this way. After we lost 8-0, it just made us just want to bounce back. It’s definitely more exciting knowing we’ll have another week after the next one because we’ll be the first team in school history to get this chance. After all of this week, it makes us more confident.”
The Cougars are not even the top seed remaining in their bracket. Vanden of Fairfield began in that position and also has had an outstanding season. The Vikings don’t have a win on their schedule over a D1 opponent like McClatchy, but do you know what they do have? A head-to-head win over Del Campo, 9-8, from early in the season. Vanden also needed a third game to advance as it won 9-4 over Central Catholic of Modesto, then lost to the Raiders 6-1 and then beat the Raiders, 1-0.
Dawidczik was still asking questions about the NorCal seeding process after the game. It’s still all brand new for baseball coaches (but not brand new to anyone who has followed CIF seedings in many sports for many years). He now knows that competitive equity seeding could push his team into a higher division if his team and McClatchy were to win SJS titles, but liked the scenario of perhaps playing at home for a regional game a lot better.
Buhach Colony ended the season with a 24-9 final record.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle.