Bret Harte senior Josh Lane woke up Monday morning and his mind quickly went to the Bullfrogs playoff baseball game later in the day.
He ate his breakfast of champions, a Nutri-Grain bar and a lemon-lime Gatorade, made it through his classes and then made it to the ballpark.
And then pitched the game of his life.
Lane hurled a no-hitter with 14 strikeouts and his battery mate Joey Kraft blasted a home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the No. 8 Bullfrogs a 1-0 walk off victory over the No. 9 West Campus Warriors in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Baseball Playoffs.
“My impression of this game is Josh Lane,” said Bret Harte head coach Mike Avecilla. “Just like he has done for us all season, he kept us in the game. Hats off to (Bryce) Lopez the opposing pitcher. He kept us off balance and did a great job of locating his offspeed stuff. Despite the fact we knew it was coming, our boys still couldn’t put it in play. Unfortunately, one team has to go home and we’re blessed to be moving on.”
The first batter of the game reached base against Lane on an error, but the big right hander
retired the next 11, seven by strikeout.
Another error broke the string of outs, but Lane sent down the next seven hitters, five by strikeout.
In the seventh inning, the Warriors got loud and boisterous in their dugout, trying their best to rattle Lane. After a one-out walk, Lane’s only free pass, he tossed a wild pitch moving the runner to second. He got a ground out which moved the runner to third. But that’s as close to scoring as West Campus would get.
Lane blew away the threat at the plate for the third out and glanced left over his shoulder to give the Warriors dugout a look seemed to say, “Nice try, take that!”
“I think that was their last resort, to try and get in my head,” Lane said. “But I was in my zone and focused.”
Lane escaped a jam in the seventh after the leadoff hitter reached on a two-base error when a high fly ball wasn’t handled. The wind that was blowing in from right field through the first seven innings, had changed and was blowing out to left.
Bret Harte center fielder Isaac Abraham made a possible game-saving play when the speedster dove head first toward the infield to take away a single, and a possible run from the Warriors.
Lane took care of the rest and struck out his final batter looking to set the stage for Kraft’s blast.
“It was really a great game for both pitchers, not a lot going on offensively,” Kraft said. “Josh really stepped up for us today. He was spotting his fastball all day and really brought it. He tossed a few good curveballs and had a few good plays behind him. This was a special day. He’s been building up to this. This wasn’t luck, it’s the result of hard work.”
With two out, Kraft came to the plate looking for something offspeed after getting a single on a changeup a couple innings earlier.
“I went up knowing that he was probably gonna start me with an offspeed pitch,” Kraft said. “I was looking for it, I sat on it and gave it everything I had. I knew I had it right off the bat. It felt real good.”
As Kraft circled the bases, his teammates stormed from the dugout and waited for him at home plate. The over 100 fans in attendance were loud, appreciative and gave a standing ovation.
Kraft had a huge smile on his face as he rounded third and saw his teammates waiting to mob him.
“I saw all these faces I’ve been working with all year, actually my whole baseball life, and it’s really a culmination of hard work and perseverance, it felt really good,” Kraft said.
Lane and Kraft couldn’t hope for a better way to finish their Bullfrog careers in their home park, a no-hitter and walk-off home run.
“They’ve been big producers all season and we wouldn’t be where we are without them,” Avecilla said. “The bottom line is we had a good crowd and we appreciate all the support from the community and students, it made it a lot more exciting.”
Bret Harte advances to the second round where they face top seed Escalon at 7 p.m. Thursday at Billy Hebert Field in Stockton.
The Bullfrogs (15-9) faced the Cougars (23-4) in the preseason this year and suffered a 10-0 loss in Escalon.
“We played them in the non-league season and they took it to us,” Coach Avecilla said. “The biggest thing is we entered that game with absolutely no pitching whatsoever, ineligibles, injuries. Regardless, they are still a great team. But anybody’s beatable.”
Game notes: Bret Harte earned its first playoff victory in over a decade at least. … The Bullfrogs have been to the playoffs five times since 2008 but had lost them all until Monday, including the 2008 and 2009 season when they won the Mother Lode League titles. … Bret Harte catcher Joey Kraft threw out an attempted base stealer by 10 feet in the first inning. Shortstop Hayden made a nice catch and tag. … Bullfrog right fielder Cody Roessler made an outstanding catch on a foul ball. The junior sprinted into foul territory, reached over the six-foot chain link fence with a pad across the top and recorded the putout. … Bret Harte had six hits including a first inning double by Lane, and singles from Abraham, Logan Apley and freshman James Avecilla.