The Pleasant Grove Eagles needed a win in their final league game in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs and, with a 3-2 lead entering the fifth inning, they had a playoff future within their grasp.
When the Eagle offense exploded for nine runs in the bottom half of the fifth, however, they sealed their fate with a 12-2 mercy-rule shortened win over Sheldon on May 8.
The win gave the Eagles the fifth playoff spot among Delta League teams, after both Pleasant Grove and Sheldon entered the game with close win-loss records.
As a result, the Eagles were awarded the ninth seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs and played eighth seed Oak Ridge at Oak Ridge High School on May 14.
The Eagles finished with a 6-12 Delta League record while Sheldon finished tied with Cosumnes Oaks with a record of 4-14.
“It feels great,” Pleasant Grove starting pitcher Sam Whiting said after picking up the complete game win, his fifth of the year. “We really battled back.”
The win also came on senior night, and the Eagles’ seniors were honored with their parents after the game.
“The last few games we tended to score a lot of runs late in the games and we kept that up today, which made the win much more comfortable than it was because it was a very close game in the last inning. We knew we had to win all three games this week. We didn’t want to count on somebody else losing for us to get into the playoffs. So they went out and did what they had to do to get into the playoffs,” Eagles head coach Rusty McDonald said afterward.
The Eagles started their playoff quest with a run in the bottom of the first inning.
Jake Herrera hit an RBI double that knocked in Chase Tatlow, who had reached base with a double of his own.
In the second inning, the Eagles scored their second run and added a third run on an RBI double by Justin Corliss in the third inning to give Pleasant Grove a 3-0 lead.
The Huskies answered with back-to-back doubles in the fourth inning that resulted in a 3-2 game but they were unable to score in the top of the fifth inning, as Whiting retired the side and Pleasant Grove went on a nine-run tear in the bottom half to abruptly end the game.
Whiting hit helped his own cause by hitting a bases-clearing double for a 6-2 lead and Josiah Ward and Bryson McArn followed up with RBI doubles of their own for an 8-2 lead. Alex Vejar hit an RBI single and, after a high throw to third resulted in a 10-2 lead, Jake Herrera hit an RBI triple to end the game at 12-2.
McDonald noted that the win was truly a team effort afterward.
“Everybody had their turn being the hero. Our goal now is one playoff win. We’re going to focus on one game,” said McDonald.