Tyler Malone roared into second base Thursday afternoon with a leadoff double off an ace who doesn’t allow much of anything.
Then Malone let loose.
Malone punctuated the moment with a triumphant yelp and clenching of his fists aimed at his cheering dugout.
This can be done, the Woodcreek High School senior star infielder admitted later to thinking at that moment. Malone and his mates agreed entering this Sac-Joaquin Section Division I baseball showdown against Sheldon and heralded draft pitching prospect Matt Manning that they would not be intimidated by 95-mph fastball heat.
“See ball, hit ball,” was the motto. And play defense, and get timely hits, and pitch, and pounce on opponent mistakes. Added up, Woodcreek chased Manning, the projected high-round draft pick, prevailing 8-3 at Sacramento City College.
Malone had two hits and keyed a strong defensive effort, ever-steady Dennis Boatman improved to 6-1, and the Timberwolves scored three runs on a throwing error in the sixth inning to break it open and advance to Saturday’s double-elimination round.
“I was really pumped,” Malone said of his theme-setting double before scoring on a Justin Watari single for a 1-0 lead. “Manning’s a great pitcher, but we couldn’t be intimidated, and I knew I’d get some fastballs.”
Manning, long and lanky at 6-foot-6 with a horde of scouts in tow, struck out seven, but he wasn’t typically sharp. He walked six for the Huskies, in the playoffs for just the second time and first since 2004.
Malone tied it 2-2 in the fifth with a triple and scored on a Manning wild pitch, and the Timberwolves of the Sierra Foothill League never looked back. Manning was done after that inning as a stellar prep career that included All-Metro honors in basketball ended
Malone may soon wind up on a draft radar, too. He’s a versatile player who can pitch and play any field position. He is headed to Oregon State as a 3.9 student who aspires to teach and coach. For now, he’s soaking up the good baseball life.
His father, Todd Malone, is soaking in the view as a Timberwolves assistant coach. And Todd Malone can appreciate a power pitcher like Manning because he was one.
Malone struck out a still-standing area-record 555 batters over his decorated Casa Roble career, graduating in 1988. He was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Yankees and logged six minor-league seasons.
Discussing his son’s success makes the old man tear up a bit. Same with mom Angela. Todd and Angela were high school sweethearts.
“Told the guys in facing Manning, ‘Do your thing, because if you suddenly change your approach, he’s already got you beat,’ ” Todd Malone said. “We did our thing.”
Boatman is an impressive sophomore who may soon draw college and pro scouts his way. He came in with a 1.12 ERA, and he earned more team-wide praise for his poise here. Matthew Ornelas earned the save.
“Boatman’s young, but he’s in control, and he’s very mature,” Woodcreek coach Eric Valencia said. “That kid, nothing fazes him. He wanted the ball.”