Sportsmanship. It can happen, and it played out marvelously Saturday afternoon in Fair Oaks.
The clinching game of a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III baseball semifinal that had more highs and lows than a roller coaster came down to the final at-bats Saturday. That’s when Del Campo’s Thomas Martinez recorded a 1-2-3 inning in relief, including two strikeouts, to seal a gritty 3-2 victory over Buhach Colony of Atwater.
Afterward, coaches and players from both sides shook hands and exchanged kind words. Fans from both sides, roped off from each other to ensure civility after a Monday series opener included BC fans attacking the umpires in video that went viral, also offered standing ovations for the efforts of their boys.
The most telling moment came in the sixth inning when Del Campo’s Egan Wyant twisted his knee during at-bat. He went down in pain, and two coaches from each team hustled over to tend to him, including the head coaches. As he was carried off the field, fans from both sides applauded.
“Sportsmanship today for both sides was more important than victory,” Del Campo coach Kevin Dawidczik said. “It’s fantastic. It was never about our teams or our coaching staffs. It was a few people in the stands who almost ruined it for all of us.”
Sportsmanship matters at any level of play, especially the high school ranks, where competition tends to bring out the best in players and too often the worst in parents. And sportsmanship mattered here more than ever because this series was unlike any that anyone could recall.
On Monday, Del Campo won Game 1 of this series 3-2 on a slide at home in the final at-bat, which capped an emotional, tense affair that included a Buhach Colony home run being waved off after the umpires ruled the runner missed a base. The winning slide at home delighted the Del Campo side and infuriated the Buhach Colony side, and the emotions spilled into the parking lot when Buhach Colony fans went after the umpires, including one fan throwing punches amid hurled words.
Things didn’t simmer right away. Tension boiled for Del Campo when the Sac-Joaquin Section on Tuesday ruled Del Campo had to forfeit the win for having a pregame batting practice, deemed a competitive advantage, though Buhach Colony was afforded the same opportunity. Del Campo won the appeal with the section Thursday, and the section also reversed its initial ruling that no fans be allowed at the next two games, except seven from Buhach Colony who were identified through cellphone video for excessive bad conduct.
On Saturday, several Buhach Colony administrators patrolled the BC side of the seating, which was full, bearing name tags and their school title. The game went without incident, which is how it’s supposed to play out.
“We’re here for the kids, both sides, and when their guy went down at the plate, we were all there together,” Buhach Colony coach Joe Medeiros said. “The beginning of the week wasn’t a good one, but hat’s off to their guys for how they handled it. This is what it’s all about, a good game with good sportsmanship. I’m glad fans got to see these games. They deserved to see it, and both teams deserved to have them here. Del Campo’s program is outstanding.”
Dawidczik was equally as impressed with Buhach Colony’s team, whch finished 24-9, saying, “That’s a fantastic club over there.”
Buhach Colony won Game 2 on Friday in Atwater 8-0 on a no-hitter by Cooper Lanz. On Saturday, it was Del Campo’s ace Hayden Hughes who earned the win despite pitching just the first three innings. Prep pitchers cannot exceed 10 innings of work in a week, an effort to spare young arms from injury.
As is the norm with Del Campo (28-5) over a lot of championship seasons, this was a team-wide effort. Jordan Jacobson had an RBI singe for a 1-0 lead in the third inning. A wild pitch scored Anthony Martinez to make it 2-0 in the same inning. In the Del Campo fourth, Matt Moses had a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. In the BC half of the fifth, Ramiro Jimenez crushed a two-run home run to cut it to 3-2, and Del Campo held on from there.
So now the Cougars head to their third successive section title round, seeking their second title in that stretch. The Cougars play top-seeded Vanden on Wednesday at Sacramento City College, a one-game winner-take-all. Del Campo also won section crowns in 1985 and ‘95 under famed coach Harry Kawahata and in 2013 under coach Paul Martinez. Dawidczik won his first section crown in 2018 at Del Campo. Now, at least, there’s a measure of relief for the tireless coach.
“This morning, I was still angry about the whole week,” he said. “We made a commitment to release that anger. We did. Now we head to Sac City, my alma mater, and it’s so special. I’m so happy for the kids and our fans.”