TRACY - After trading lopsided victories in a Tri City Athletic League-opening three game series, the Tracy High and Lodi baseball teams turned in something a bit different for Friday afternoon’s finale:
A tense pitcher’s duel, courtesy of Kyle Mulhern and Logan Stout.
Mulhern, the Bulldogs’ sophomore righty, threw a four-hitter with one unearned run allowed to lead Tracy over Lodi 2-1 in Tracy.
The Flames (7-7, 1-2 TCAL) had their own sophomore right-hander in Stout, and he was nearly as good, tossing a five-hitter while allowing two runs in the first inning before blanking Tracy (8-4, 2-1 TCAL) the rest of the way.
In stark contrast to Tracy’s 9-3 win on Tuesday and Lodi’s 12-2 rout on Thursday, every run of Friday’s matchup came in the first inning.
In the top of the inning, Lodi’s Logan Morita reached on an error to lead off. Angelo Zazzarino singled an out later, and Evan Webb walked to load the bases. Bobby Yabumoto followed by beating a throw on a potential double play, giving the Flames the only run they’d get.
Tracy answered in the bottom of the first, even after Josh Alvarado was picked off first base following his leadoff single. Stout walked two Bulldogs in a row, Andrew Tavares hit an RBI single and a passed ball gave Tracy the only lead it would need.
Stout settled right in after that rocky start, and Lodi coach Hobie Schultz said he thought the young hurler had an outstanding afternoon. The problem was, Mulhern matched him frame for frame beyond that first inning.
Mulhern didn’t face more than four batters in an inning the rest of the way. It was an outing that didn’t exactly surprise Tracy coach Vic Alkire, who said Mulhern has proved to be a consistent force on the mound.
“He was really composed out there, and he always is, not just today,” Alkire said. “That’s what we try to teach them, and he’s very good at it.”
Alkire said Stout and the Flames did well to keep the Bulldogs’ offense at bay in each of the last two games. It just turned out that Mulhern squashed every chance Lodi had to tie the game, including an error that put the tying run on base in the seventh.
“It was one of those days where we didn’t get the big hit,” Schultz said. “But we kept it close, we had a chance to win at the end and that’s all you can ask.
“I’m proud of the way our players played,” Schultz added. “They played hard and tough. Whenever you can play Tracy tough, that’s a good thing.”
For Tracy, the Bulldogs leave their first TCAL series with a winning record. Alkire said it’s a solid team, but a young one. The Bulldogs need to grow, he said, and that will happen with experience.
One of their youngest arms got that Friday, and he’s confident in what Tracy could do deeper in the season.
“I think we play fantastic as a team,” Mulhern said. “We all know our abilities. I think we have to max out every time we can.
“If we can all play at 100 percent, I think there’s no stopping us.”
Contact reporter Nick Woodard at (209) 546-8272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@nwoodard25.