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Honkers heading home
Y.C. ousted by El Camino
SACRAMENTO — Dave Rodriguez stood patiently in the third base coach's box waiting for something, anything, to happen.
Yuba City High's baseball coach saw his Honkers come through in the clutch all year.
When the Honkers trailed 5-1 against El Camino on Wednesday, he didn't doubt for one second that his team would mount a comeback.
Even with runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Rodriguez still clung to the smallest glimpse of hope that Yuba City's season would continue.
The harsh reality set in when Zach Rocha grounded out to first and a sea of green and black came pouring out of the visitor's dugout at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Ballpark.
El Camino, not the four-time Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion Yuba City Honkers, will be playing for a banner on Monday at Sacramento City College.
The Eagles eliminated the Honkers from playoff contention with a 5-1 victory, sweeping a best-of-three series from Yuba City. El Camino defeated Yuba City, 12-6, in game one on Saturday.
This was Yuba City's second consecutive playoff exit in the best-of-three round. The Honkers were knocked out by Rodriguez in 2011.
"We didn't get the big hit (today) like we'd been getting all year," Rodriguez said. "It's funny because, up until the last out, I thought something good was going to happen. That's what these guys brought to this team this year."
Yuba City earned the moniker "Cardiac Honkers" this season due to the team's propensity to pull out victories late. The Honkers tallied 10 come-from-behind victories this season and won six games in their last at-bat.
None of that magic was on display against El Camino.
Yuba City (22-8) scored its only run in the bottom of the third inning.
Justin Noreen led off the inning with a sharp single into center field. After an Aaron Byers' single to right, Rocha knocked in Noreen with a double to the wall in center field.
That rally was cut short as Byers was tagged out at home plate trying to score on a wild pitch.
Yuba City also left runners in scoring position in the second, fifth and seventh innings.
The Honkers could only amass six hits against El Camino starter Mike Frantz, who pitched a complete game for the Eagles.
Byers finished 3 for 4 and will continue his playing career at Division-I South Dakota State next season. He was the Tri-County Conference MVP and will play in both the Optimist and Lions All-Star Games.
"If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season if we would have made it this far, I would have been a little hesitant," Byers said. "I'm proud of every single person on this team and the way we played this year."
El Camino (20-10) touched up Yuba City starter Zach Oakley for two runs in the top of the second inning and three more in the top of the third.
The Eagles pounded out seven hits in those two innings.
Oakley settled in and allowed just one hit over his final four innings. He pitched all seven for the Honkers.
"We never gave up in any game," Byers said. "We never thought we were going to lose a game. We had a positive attitude all year."
As the team huddled down the left-field line for its final postgame meeting, Rodriguez told his players to keep the loss in perspective.
He reminded them of their undefeated TCC season, the program's eighth straight playoff appearance and all of those come-from-behind victories, memories the seniors will take with them for the rest of their lives.
As for everyone else, the work toward next season begins on Saturday with a summer ball meeting.
The dynasty may be over, but the new era is only getting started.
"The exciting part of it is that we get to start looking forward, and that begins on Saturday," Rodriguez said. "I'm just so proud of all of these guys."