After some early fireworks, Stockdale pitcher Dylan Newell lulled league-leading Frontier to sleep Tuesday, leading the Mustangs to a 3-1 road victory and a step closer to the Central Section playoffs.
Newell, a junior left-hander, gave up just two hits in a complete-game victory that he said was thrown without great feel for his pitches.
"I was warming up and felt like I was in trouble," Newell said. "It sort of wasn't the best game to not have everything, so I just worked through it and tried to get everything I could over the plate, and it worked."
Stockdale (13-11, 7-5 Southwest Yosemite League) has three games remaining and needs to finish above .500 to meet the school's criterion for playoff qualification. But with Tuesday's win, they need only to win once more -- either Thursday at home against Frontier or in two games next week against last-place Bakersfield -- to ensure that benchmark.
"The last two games, we have played with a sense of urgency," Stockdale coach Brad Showers said. "Momentum is such a big thing in high school baseball. We got pounded one week ago, 15-7 at home (against Liberty), and we were down 15-0. We knew what we had to do as far as the playoffs."
The Mustangs gave Newell all the support he needed in the first inning, when James Carroll and Drew Allen led off with back-to-back doubles. Kevin Lee, who went 4 for 4, singled home a run later in the inning to make it 2-0.
Stockdale, which has struggled offensively for much of the season, collected 12 hits in all.
"We're swinging the bats like we haven't all year," Showers said. "We're finding the holes. We're not a power team by any means, but our focus has been better, and we're understanding what we can do and can't do."
In the bottom of the first, Frontier leadoff man Christian Deaton tried to bunt his way aboard. The first time he did it, the ball went foul, and Stockdale's coaches pointed out to home-plate umpire Mike Jones that they thought Deaton had stepped out of the batter's box before making contact (had the ball been fair, that would have been an automatic out).
Two pitches later, Deaton tried to bunt again -- this time the ball was fair, and Jones immediately called him out.
Frontier coach John Moncier, who later said he thought Deaton's foot didn't land outside the box until well after contact, came out to argue the call. After a brief argument, Jones ejected Moncier, plus a fan who verbally berated the umpire from the stands.
"All I did was I asked him, 'Tell me what you saw here,' and he said, 'Don't be trying to show me up,'" Moncier said of his argument with Jones. "He has something against me; I had a problem with him last year. I said, 'Mike, I'm not trying to show me up. Just tell me what you saw.' And he said, 'You're outta here.' That's it. That was all. It's unprofessional what he did."
After any ejection, umpires must file an incident report with the Kern High School District. Usually, there's an automatic one-game suspension with more punishment when it's deemed necessary.
That means Frontier (21-6, 10-2 SWYL) will likely have to play Thursday's game at Stockdale without Moncier. The Titans could have clinched a share of the league title with a win; instead, their lead slipped to two games over Centennial (8-4 SWYL), which scored a run in the seventh inning to beat Bakersfield 2-1. The Titans can still clinch the title with any combination of two wins or Centennial losses in the final three games.
"We didn't have a good day at the plate, and we didn't deserve to win," said Moncier, who watched the game from outside the field. "Hopefully we can hang on and win this league."
The good news for Frontier is that they won't see Newell again. He didn't allow a hit until Caleb Hewes singled with two outs in the fifth inning. Meanwhile, Stockdale's Nick Parke homered in the fourth to make it 3-0. Frontier's Nick McCoy answered with a home run in the seventh, but it wasn't enough.
"I can't say enough about Dylan Newell," Showers said. "He's got a lot of late movement; he's given up one earned run the last 21 innings. He's really stepped up."
Newell finished with eight strikeouts and four walks, but he limited the big-hitting Titans from making much solid contact. And when it was over, Stockdale -- a Central Section finalist last year -- was just one win away from becoming a dangerous entry into the Division I playoffs.
"Everything's changed for us," Newell said. "We've had two big wins in a row now, and everyone is more into the game, every pitch. We have a lot more positive emotion."