Special to The Enterprise
WOODLAND — Right fielder Robert Daugherty had three hits, scored three runs and drove in two more to help propel Yolo Post 77 past Lodi, 7-4, in the championship game of the District 6 double-elimination tournament.
Daugherty’s fifth-inning solo go-ahead home run proved to be the deciding play of the game, which was a tense affair from the opening pitch on Saturday at Clark Field.
“It feels good to come out and contribute to the win,” Daugherty said. “But it’s a team sport.”
Post 77 — which now heads to the Area 1 tournament — started out strong on Saturday as a two-out rally in the bottom of the first provided two runs and a 2-1 lead.
Mike Chavarria took a walk to get the locals started, then took advantage of the situation, running on contact on what turned out to be a double from Daugherty.
Chavarria easily scored from first as the well-hit ball eluded Lodi center fielder Brett Young.
Catcher Hayden Duer then drove Daugherty in with a double of his own to center, where Young, who was struggling with the sunlight directly in his line of vision, dove and just missed the ball.
A shaky first inning for Yolo pitcher Zach Aukes was followed by two solid frames, before fatigue got to him in a 40-pitch fourth, during which controversy ensued.
Aukes struck out the first batter of the inning and walked the second, but somehow walked the third batter on just three pitches.
The umpire mistakenly thought the count was 2-1 when it should have been 1-2. The Yolo side of the crowd had some choice words for the umpire, who responded to them, but failed to question the scorekeeper for clarification.
Aukes then loaded the bases by giving up a single to Young. Two wild pitches and a passed ball later and a 3-1 Post 77 advantage had turned into a 4-3 deficit. Aukes got out of the inning, but was replaced by Jake Millie, but not before there was more controversy.
In the middle of the fourth, while the Lodi pitcher was warming up, Yolo coach Matt Castles was ejected from the game for calmly arguing with the umpire.
“I don’t know how you lose track of the (pitch) count,” Castles said. “I’ve coached in this league long enough though. I should expect it.”
Castles’ ejection was his second of the season; the other also was against Lodi, and also with the same umpire crew.
“There’re times when you gotta step up and take the heat for the team,” Castles said. “This team can win without me. It can’t win without a starting position player.”
The ejection fired up Post 77 as they immediately tied the game in the bottom of the inning.
Third baseman Kiki Gonzales led off the frame and was drilled straight in the head, causing the Yolo bench to clear. Gonzales was awarded first base, but the umpire reprimanded both teams and the game continued.
Joe Murray reached base on a fielder’s choice and moved over on Adam Castelan’s single. Murray then stole third base, and ran home when Castelan was thrown out attempting to swipe second.
Chavarria flew out to end the fourth inning and up stepped Millie to pitch in a 4-4 game.
Millie allowed no runs on four hits and one walk to close out the last five innings of the game, and the championship for Yolo.
“Jake Millie did a great job of coming in, in relief to keep us in the game,” said Castles. “Our starting pitching struggled.”
After Millie had a 1-2-3 top of the fifth, Daugherty provided the only run he would need in the bottom of the frame.
Leading off the inning, Daugherty crushed a 1-1 pitch to right-center field, the ball landing just over the 360-feet sign on the fence.
“Off the bat I had no idea (that it was going to be a home run),” Daugherty said. “Then it just kept going. It felt good.”
Daugherty’s teammates mobbed him at home plate and then proceeded to finish off the win.
For good measure, Post 77 scored two more runs and a spectacular diving catch from Adam Castelan ended the game.
Notes: Despite the loss, Lodi will join Yolo in the Area 1 tournament, which begins Wednesday in Chico. … The two teams also met on Friday, with Post 77 winning 10-3 to set up the championship rematch. … Duer had three hits in that game, including a home run, to go with three RBIs. Chris Gnos and Mike Chavarria added two hits each.
— Evan Ream is a freelance journalist based in Davis. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam