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Placer’s late push falls short

Lincoln overwhelms Hillmen to land PVL’s final playoff spot
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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The power surge that kept Placer High in postseason contention was nowhere to be found in the team’s winner-take-all playoff with bitter rival Lincoln Tuesday night. Hours after squeaking out a one-run win over Mesa Verde to force a game to determine the Pioneer Valley League’s third playoff berth, it was the Fighting Zebras providing all the offense in a 14-2, six-inning victory. Lincoln (14-11) advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs face Oakdale today, while the Hillmen (13-8) won’t get a shot at defending their section title. “We didn’t want it to end like this, but it did,” head coach Larry Prewitt said. “I’m proud of my guys because they battled all year long. We could have folded up the tent a long time ago. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We just came out flat in this game and didn’t do what we’ve been doing.” Placer mustered only one extra-base hit against Zebras starter Marcus Maldonado, who kept the Hillmen off-balance to beat them for the second time this season. Maldonado allowed five hits, walked three and struck out three in a complete-game effort. “We just didn’t hit,” Prewitt said. “That’s uncharacteristic because the last few weeks we’ve been tearing the cover off the ball and today even in the first game we didn’t hit the ball very well.” Lincoln frustrated Placer starter Cameron Southward in his final high school game, tagging the senior for nine runs on 13 hits in one of his worst career outings. “We worked our butts off and I felt like we could have gotten through a couple more days if we made the playoffs,” Southward said. “We just didn’t come out today. It happens.” The field umpire called him for a balk in the third. “I’ve been doing that all year,” Southward said. “I’ve never been called for that. That was a first. He’s been out there before. He’s seen me do it all the time and that’s the first time he’s ever called me.” The umpire later ruled Southward failed to step on first while covering on a race to the base, prolonging the inning. “When he said I missed the bag, I skimmed the top of it and he still called him safe,” he said. “That’s just ridiculous. There’s not much you can really say about that. When you’re pitching you’re giving it your all and when things aren’t going your way those things really get to you because you’re trying so hard to focus on doing your job. It’s a big point of frustration.” The top third of the Zebras’ batting order did plenty to irritate Southward, too. Leadoff hitter Maldonado, Elvis Sandoval and Dusty Foster were a combined 8-for-9 and scored seven runs. Hillmen pitchers allowed 16 hits and walked nine. Ace Ryan Mason only pitched an inning of relief after exceeding his pitch count in a no-hitter against Lincoln only four days earlier. “If we played like we played Friday we wouldn’t have had a problem,” Prewitt said. It was the fourth game in six grueling days for Placer. “It’s pretty tough because we don’t really have much of a pitching staff,” Southward said. “We were low on pitching and it really did get to us.” Matt Ryan had two of Placer’s hits before being ejected in the fifth inning for running into Zebras first baseman Austin Pleich in what the umpire determined to be intentional fashion.