By Joe Davidson
All in all, it was one memorable day for Mitch Walding.
Hours after being drafted in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, the St. Mary's Rams star shortstop showcased his myriad skills at Sacramento City College. He vows to show some more, too.
The senior had a two-run single to help break open the fifth inning, made some highlight stops on defense and implored calm to his mates in the dugout tonight in the Rams' 6-2 victory over the Jesuit Marauders in the opener of this best-of-three Sac-Joaquin Section
Walding was the Rams staff ace much of the season before sitting the final nine games of the regular season with a sore right foot. He hurt himself while pitching a 1-0 gem to beat national power Mitty of San Jose. Fit and motivated these days, Walding will now start Game 2 today on the mound at 4 p.m., needing a triumph to stamp St. Mary's (23-9) with a section repeat. He is 6-0 this season.
Michael Hager, looking every bit the ace now, earned the win Tuesday, his eighth. He struck out the side in the seventh and fanned seven overall to snap Jesuit's seven-game winnings streak. The stout senior is uneaten in his last six appearances, giving the Rams of Stockton a remarkable 1-2 power punch.
Jesuit ace Logan James was pulled in the top of the fifth with the scored tied 1-1 and the Rams took full advantage.
Using a wood bat, Gio Brusa had a two-run double to make it 5-1. Walding shattered his wood bat in the fourth inning. Wood bats are about as rare in prep baseball any more as Jesuit losing title series.
The Marauders (24-8) are now confronted with a monstrous Big Red challenge. They need to win Game 2 to force a take-all finale, also today. What's more, Jesuit could use some good karma from its rich athletic history.
The Marauders are 5-0 lifetime in title rounds and 10-3 overall in those games. The only other time Jesuit lost the opener of a title series was in its first appearance, against Grace Davis of Modesto in 1994. Jesuit recovered to win two straight.
And this: Jesuit players understand it can secure the school's 100th section team title, more than double the amount of any other section program. Davis has 49. Jesuit coach Joe Potulny has raved in recent weeks about his team's leadership and poise, headed by seniors Brian Celsi, Rhys Hoskins and Cameron Iwasa. To a man, the Marauders are fully convinced they can still win this thing.
This was Jesuit's first playoff setback after a 4-0 romp in the D-I North field at American River College. Jesuit came in winners of 14 of 15. St. Mary's, in the section finals for the fourth time in five years under coach Pete Pijl, fell to Jesuit in the 2009 finals at Sac City. The private-school rivals have faced off every season for a nonleague contest since 1993.
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