If this truly was Sean Mullen’s last time on the mound at the Stockdale baseball field, then he certainly left it on good terms.
Mullen’s life is only going to change for the better in the coming weeks.
The senior right hander for Stockdale is the two-time defending BVarsity Baseball Player of the Year and signed to play at UCLA. Mullen likely will also get drafted in next month’s MLB Amateur Draft.
Until either one of those situations is solidified, Mullen is still one of the top hitter/pitchers in California and proved it Wednesday with a 10-strikeout performance over six scoreless innings as Stockdale beat Frontier 4-2 in the Central Section Division I quarterfinals.
“Sean was locked in today,” Stockdale coach Brad Showers said. “He had great command of not just his breaking ball … and that’s where he has truly progressed with his secondary pitches.”
Mullen walked Frontier’s leadoff hitter Elijah Pascual on four pitches and didn’t walk another the rest of the way and finished with 101 pitches.
Mullen threw 15 first-pitch strikes and struck out the side twice in the third and fourth innings.
“That’s my role. That’s what I’m supposed to do,” Mullen said. “I’m supposed to pitch my best and not worry about results and go get whoever they put in front of me.”
Mullen struck out eight of the nine Frontier batters he faced in the lineup, and likely would have gone the full seven innings had he not began to creep close to the 110-pitch limit on high school pitchers.
“It’s almost unfair when he is throwing breaking pitches for strikes and he freezes kids,” Showers said. “It’s special. He’s pitched well the last couple of weeks.”
Mullen also got early run support from the Mustangs’ (23-5) lineup that he began in the bottom of the first.
Mullen led off the inning with a first-pitch single, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Jalen Smith.
No. 2 Stockdale scored three more times in the first on run-scoring singles by Kade Sheedy and Michael Keese that surrounded an RBI double for Jacob Ruley that bounced off the right field fence.
“You have to compartmentalize as a guy who hits and pitches,” Mullen said. “If the other guy is pitching well, that should mean absolutely nothing to you.”
And that’s what happened.
Frontier junior Austin Puskaric settled in after the four-run first and shut out the Mustangs in the final five innings while retiring the final nine batters he faces. Puskaric struck out six batters.
“Austin did a really job for us, even in the first inning,” Frontier coach Garrett White said. “Just balls were going through holes and a lot of ground balls. It’s hard when you let Sean and Jalen get on first and second. Those guys can run and disrupt things.”
No. 10 Frontier (18-13) scored twice in the top of the seventh on a line drive by Pascual, allowing pinch-runner Connor Pumphrey and Brock Calvillo to score with two outs before Alejandro Murillo got Nick Phair looking to end the game.
“It’s crazy. This field in particular has shaped me into the person I am today since I was 7 years old,” Mullen said. “So when you get days like today, it means more than the random onlooker would see on the surface.”
Stockdale will host No. 3 Clovis North in the semifinals on Tuesday. It’s the second consecutive D-I semifinal home game for Stockdale after the Mustangs lost to eventual section champions Clovis 7-5 in eight innings last season.
Mullen, Smith and a handful of other Mustangs were on the field for that loss and do not want a repeat this time around.
“It’s going to be a lot more intense,” Mullen said. “It means a lot more to a lot of us that felt like we got robbed a little bit. I’m not going to leave a bad taste in my mouth.”