VISALIA -- The baseball axiom is that good pitching beats good hitting. But, as Tehachapi High found out in the Central Section Division III title game Friday, even great pitching needs some run-support in order to win.
Despite an outstanding complete-game effort on the mound by Sagun Gainey, the No. 9 Warriors lost a 3-0 heartbreaker to second-seeded Visalia-Golden West at Dick Doepker Field.
The freshman right-hander pitched with the poise of a veteran in holding the host Trailblazers (20-10) scoreless until the sixth inning, when they finally broke through for the championship game's only runs.
"He pitched his guts out but we just didn't put any runs on the board for him," Tehachapi coach Chris Olofson said.
Tehachapi's high-powered offense was completely shut down by Golden West's Thomas Dunehew (6-4, 1.31 ERA), who hurled a three-hitter. The Blazers ace issued just one walk and had six strikeouts.
Gainey (6-1, 3.97 ERA) surrendered six hits and two walks (both intentional) while striking out seven.
“I was just trying to work my hardest for the seniors,” Gainey said. “My curveball was working good and my fastball was on point today. It was crazy. I just felt good out there.”
The loss, Gainey’s first of the season, snapped Tehachapi’s six-game winning streak. The Warriors (20-10) averaged 12.5 runs per game during the streak.
“I’m proud of my boys,” Olofson said. “They played hard. They fought and we accomplished a lot more than people thought we could do. ... It’s terribly disappointing because I honestly thought we were the better team. I thought we were on a roll. But I’ve seen it before where one pitcher can shut down an offense on a given day and it happened. It’s very frustrating.”
The Blazers didn’t have any runners reach third base until the sixth inning. Champlin hit a one-out single and Tanner Cook followed with his second double of the game, putting runners on second and third. After intentionally walking Golden West cleanup hitter Tyler Morgan to load the bases, Gainey fanned Dunehew with a sharp breaking ball.
Just one out from getting out of the bases-loaded jam unscathed and with Troy Stainbrook batting, Gainey fired a fastball in the dirt that skipped past Tehachapi catcher Steve Nielson all the way to the backstop.
Gainey’s wild pitch allowed Champlin to race hime from third. Two pitches later, Stainbrook knocked in two more runs with a line-drive single to center field.
“I went up to the plate to battle and stick one out for the team and the get the (win),” Stainbrook said.
Tehachapi responded in the seventh with a two-out double by Davin Domingo.
However, Dunehew quickly squelched the Warriors’ fading hopes by striking out Reid Feeley to end the game.
“That was two pitchers just working their tails off today,” Golden West coach Bob Verissimo. “It was a great game. It’s really a shame that one of the teams had to lose.”
The Blazers secured their first section championship in baseball since 2004 and fourth overall.
Domingo’s double, a hard-hit ball to the left-center gap, produced Tehachapi’s best scoring opportunity since the early stages of the game.
The Warriors put runners in scoring position in each of the first two frames.
Tyler Huebner was stranded at second after a first-inning single. An inning later, Domingo led off with a walk and stole second. But Dunehew fanned the next three Tehachapi batters to end the threat. That started a spurt in which the senior righty retired 16 out of 17 batters.
Gainey, Tehachapi’s top hitter this season with a .440 batting average, finished 0-for-3 with three groundouts.
“We weren’t hitting the baseball very good and it just killed us,” he said.
Michael Llamas, one of three seniors in the Warriors starting lineup Friday, had one of his team’s three hits, a fourth-inning single. He said, despite the loss, he was proud of everything the Warriors accomplished this season.
“It’s not really disappointing because everyone kind of counted us out before the year started,” Llamas said. “We started off 0-3, not really playing well and then we ended up here. We fought and made the most of what we could. Just came up three outs short.”