He hobbled around the bases. He labored on the mound. He winced when he wasn’t grimacing.
But no way was Andrew Fuentes going to come out.
Digging deep in producing another gritty effort, Fuentes was the driving force behind Pioneer High School’s breakthrough baseball season that was capped Monday afternoon with a stirring 2-0 victory over a similarly long-shot hopeful in Lincoln in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game.
A senior left-hander, Fuentes threw a three-hitter and struck out nine at Sacramento City College for the Patriots, who had the simple goal of just reaching the postseason, never mind winning it. It’s the second title for Pioneer (18-13) and the second for coach Craig Marquez, who was the starting third baseman for Woodland’s 1992 D-I section title team coached by Rob Rinaldi. That group surged in Yolo County years before Pioneer opened. The Pioneer softball team also celebrated a championship this spring.
Marquez raved about his team’s ability to respond, going from third place in the Tri-County Conference to the top of the section D-III landscape. Fuentes was the key as he went 3-0 in the playoffs. He also singled in the fourth. His pinch runner, Xavier Mireles scored on Austin Millang’s double to make it 2-0. All this for a team that graduated several scholarship players last spring and from a pitcher who was the No. 4 man in the rotation a year ago.
“These guys worked so hard, and as a coach, that’s all you can ask for,” Marquez said. “Andrew Fuentes is a bulldog; just wants to compete.”
Still, Fuentes admitted he was out of sorts before the game, equal parts nerves and that troublesome quadriceps.
“I fought through it,” Fuentes said. “I’m a guy who will give it his all.”
Jake Sola struck out seven for Lincoln (14-15-1), which was third in the Pioneer Valley League.
Benicia 2, Christian Brothers 1 at Sac City – Fred Williams hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first, and ace Matt Brown struck out 10 in moving to 10-1 as the Panthers (27-5) won their second section title since 2011 and first in Division II. Senior Steven Talbert was superb for CBS (24-7), striking out five and allowing four hits as he had his 10-game winning streak snapped. Other CBS team leaders this season included pitcher-first baseman Lucas Still and center fielder Brendan Gormley.
Capital Christian 6, Lindhurst 0 at Sac City – Tyler Schimpf saved his best for last, striking out 16, smacking two doubles and scoring two runs as the Cougars repeated as D-V champions.
A Texas-bound senior, the 6-foot-5 Schimpf (8-1) bettered his career high for strikeouts by one in producing one of the great outings in regional playoff history. The section playoff record for strikeouts in a seven-inning game is 19 by Jesuit’s J.P. Howell (now with the Dodgers) in 2001 against Del Campo.
Dom Munoz and Alejandro Fernandez each drove in runs for the Cougars (25-5), who went 4-0 against the Blazers (15-10) this season, including 3-0 in Golden Empire League play. Perhaps Schimpf’s best move was after the game. The Cougars cashed in on a wager with coach Nelson Randolph, who agreed to remove his mustache if his team won the final game. Schimpf did the honors, as Randolph sat on the mound and grinned throughout the shave.
“Beginning of the year, we talked about doing that, and we reminded him last week,” Schimpf said. “He’s never shaved it. Now he’s a clean man. This was a great way to end the season. Being at Capital Christian has been an experience of a lifetime.”
Valley Christian 6, Millenium-Tracy 5 in Lodi – Micah Gunter scored on a passed ball for the winning run in the seventh inning, and Sacramento State-bound ace Jeremiah Moore struck out 14 as the Lions (23-8) won their fourth consecutive D-VI championship by beating the Falcons of Tracy (21-4). Valley Christian trailed 5-1 before Will Robinson tied the score with an RBI double in the sixth. Gunter is the son of longtime coach Brad Gunter Jr., who has won six section titles since 2008.
Bradshaw Christian 5, Vacaville Christian 1 in Lodi – The Pride (21-9) won its second consecutive D-VI championship by beating the Falcons (21-9-1).
Editor’s note: Pioneer High School’s championship victory Monday gave the school its second Sac-Joaquin Section Division III baseball title, not its first as reported in an earlier version of this story. Also, Benicia defeated Christian Brothers 2-1 to win the section D-II championship. An earlier version of this story included an incorrect score for that game.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.