FRESNO -- It wasn't the ending coach Dan Lemon and Stockdale High's baseball team imagined for the final page of their fairy tale. Not even close, actually -- but then, maybe that's OK.
Clovis North routed Stockdale 13-2 at home for the Central Section Division I title Friday, ending a magical Mustangs run that few outside of the Stockdale dugout saw coming in the first place.
"That's a good team we played, and when you make mistakes, they get compounded," said Lemon, who is retiring from coaching. "I've had good memories with these kids. It's one of the funnest teams I've ever been around."
Lemon, 50, finishes his baseball career at Stockdale with 380 victories in 21 years, with nine league championships and section titles in 2008 and 2009, all won with trusted assistant Greg Showers at his side. He also won a section title as a player at North in 1981.
"It's a little emotional," Lemon said. "The kids are super to be around. They made every day fun in practice. It's going to be hard, but I'm ready to play a little golf, too."
Lemon, still a teacher at Stockdale, said he will apply to be the Mustangs boys golf coach when Jim Keene becomes athletic director.
"It's just about relationships with players," he said. "I've had so many over 30 years, and I've developed great friendships. That's what it's about -- yeah, you want to play good baseball, but it's lessons about life. How to win honorably, how to handle losing, dust yourself off and keep going. That's what you hope when they become adults they keep."
And Lemon's career, extended when Stockdale stunned top-seeded Clovis-Buchanan 3-2 in eight innings in Wednesday’s semifinals, had one more lesson to teach.
“In our semifinal (victory over Clovis), we really started hitting the baseball,” Clovis North coach Chris Patrick said. “We got off to a slow start today, but we started to get some big two-out hits.”
Those came against Stockdale starter Jamey Carroll, who became the Mustangs’ emergency second starter when other options were injured or ineffective. He was a magic man, shutting out Bakersfield in a game Stockdale (21-11) needed to win for the Southwest Yosemite League title, then beating Fresno-Bullard 1-0 in the quarterfinals last Friday.
But in the third inning, Clovis North starting squaring up the ball. Christian Rossi, also the quarterback for the Broncos’ section-championship football team, hit a leadoff double. Jack Labosky followed with a two-run double three batters later, and Braden Frankfort made it 3-0 with an RBI single.
“We did everything we could,” Stockdale catcher Junior Felix said. “Jamey threw his best pitches. It just wasn’t our day today.”
Clovis North added six runs in the fourth to chase Carroll, with the big blows an RBI double from Koby Cummings and Connor Fugman’s two-run single. Rossi added a three-run home run in the sixth.
“Jamey was leaving the ball up a little, and he was struggling with his slider,” Lemon said. “So it became a deal where he really only had one pitch, and against a quality team, you’ve got to have two or three.”
Meanwhile, Labosky improved to 10-0 for Clovis North, which won its semifinal without using its ace. Stockdale threw its top pitcher, Max Carter, for eight innings Wednesday.
“(Labosky) is arguably the best pitcher in the Valley,” Lemon said. “It was going to take everything we had — the stars had to align perfectly, and they didn’t.”
Stockdale did manage to score off Labosky, something his previous three opponents hadn’t done. The Mustangs scored twice in the fifth inning when Kevin Lee singled, J.C. Coles doubled, Nick Parke hit a sacrifice fly and Josh Stone an RBI single.
“The whole team gave maximum effort, and we battled the whole season,” Felix said. “I’m really proud that we made it this far.”
Lemon will carry plenty of fond memories from this group, too.
“This is one of the most fun teams I've been around,” he said. “These kids have been amazing.”