VISALIA -- Everything was according to script for Golden Valley's baseball team Saturday except for one problem: Evan Sagariballa wasn't playing along.
Kerman shut out the Bulldogs 3-0 in the Central Section Division IV championship at Rawhide Ballpark, inducing a bases-loaded double play to end the game.
"That kid pitched a heck of a game," Golden Valley coach Mike Gibson said. "We didn't adjust to his breaking pitch. We worked on it all week, but when (it's a live game), we couldn't make the adjustments we needed."
Sagariballa struck out six, walked one and allowed just four hits to give No. 2 seed Kerman (28-4) its second D-IV section championship in three years.
No. 5 Golden Valley (22-12) knew it had its ace pitcher, junior Austin Toerner, for a maximum of three innings because he had pitched seven innings in a semifinal victory over No. 1 Selma. Toerner had had three days' rest, but CIF rules state pitchers can't throw more than 10 innings in a week.
So Gibson planned for his No. 2 pitcher, Andy Cantu, to pitch the first four innings and then turn to Toerner. Cantu allowed two runs, one on Aaron Walker's soft RBI single in the first inning and another on Louie Vallejo's RBI single in the second.
"We knew they could do that, scratch across runs," Gibson said. "Our hope was to score some runs early and take them out of that."
But Sagariballa would have none of it. After allowing a single to Chris Rodriguez in the first, he didn't allow another Golden Valley hit until Cantu singled in the sixth.
"Evan's a Greg Maddux type," said Kerman coach Jay Preuss, comparing his right-hander to the Cy Young winner famous for his command. "He can hit any of his pitches at any time: Curveball, fastball, changeup. He's always thinking ahead. He's one of the smartest players I've ever coached."
Toerner, who was 8-4 with a 1.27 ERA and had thrown complete games in the quarterfinals against Bakersfield Christian and in Tuesday's semifinals, worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning. But Kerman got an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth thanks in large part to a routine fly ball that Bulldogs left fielder Steve Ramos lost in the sun.
"We hit a lot of balls right at (Kerman), and then having a ball lost in the sun didn't help," Toerner said. "The ball just didn't bounce our way."
Still, down 3-0, Golden Valley strengthened its pulse when Josh Hernandez led off the seventh with a single and Pierre Morales was hit by a pitch. Toerner then singled to center to load the bases with no outs.
"I was pumped up," Toerner said. "I just wanted to keep it going."
But after a meeting on the mound -- Preuss likened it to a timeout in basketball to stop Golden Valley's momentum -- Sagariballa fielded Ramos' chopper and threw home to force out Hernandez for the first out. Then Cantu bounced sharply to shortstop Eddie Rodriguez, who started a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
"When you've got a guy who nibbles on the corners, he will get groundballs like that," Gibson said. "We just kind of ran out of outs."
For Kerman, it was a different sort of championship than the Lions' title in 2012, which was spearheaded by ace Carlos Salazar, eventually a second-round MLB Draft choice. This team has just one senior starter and relied on pitching depth -- Kerman didn't allow an earned run in three playoff games -- and a well-rounded game to win.
"It means a lot," Preuss said. "It's validation of what we do in Kerman. It's not about one person. Carlos Salazar was an amazing player and person, but it still takes nine guys. This group has been tremendous."
Golden Valley, which had never before been past the section quarterfinals in baseball, figures it could be back on the big stage, too.
"It's been an exciting run," Toerner said. "It's one of the greatest things in my life. We'll be back."
The Bulldogs will return six starters next season, including Toerner, catcher Morales and defensive whiz Blesam Sedang at shortstop.
"This is such a great group of kids," Gibson said. "I can't say enough about them. This has been an awful lot of fun, and the good news is a lot of them come back to try to do it again."