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TCC finale: They're both in
Falcons, Honkers advancing to playoffs
The final score was 6-2 Honkers, with Sam Kuykendall striking out 10 to give the area's premier baseball team another sweep of River Valley High.
It will go down as a mere footnote. Ask around, the real victor on a Friday under the lights at Winship Field was the city of Yuba City.
"You bet," Honkers coach Jim Stassi said.
No unhappy faces this year, only the celebrations that come along with making history. For the first time, both schools are heading to the playoffs.
Plus footnote No. 2, something Stassi wants to move on from as quickly as possible: It's a fourth straight league title for the brown and gold.
"Winning the league championship is the main goal," said Stassi, who did not want to discuss if this is his last year at the helm of the Honkers. "Our goal is winning the section championship."
That work for a four-peat begins at 8 a.m. today in the weight room.
As for the Falcons, there's no acting like they've been there before. They're pumped.
A year after having the postseason taken away following an off-the-field paperwork snafu, the Falcons received the good news via text message 30 minutes before game time: Woodland defeated Pioneer 5-1, meaning the Falcons clinched the No. 3 spot in the Tri-County Conference.
"I'm elated for these kids, most importantly our three seniors," River Valley coach Billy Rollins said. "Coaching is all about these kids and these kids get to play another high school baseball game."
Alex Pino walked over to the Honkers' dugout to shake hands with Yuba City seniors, who just finished a ceremony commemorating their final game on Clark Avenue and B Street. Exactly 365 days earlier, Pino was across the way in his rivals' gymnasium, learning that an eligibility issue that was out of the players' hands kept him from reaching the postseason. (River Valley was eventually granted a one-game showdown for the final slot and lost at Woodland 10-0.)
Now the River Valley high senior will toe the rubber in the Falcons' inaugural playoff appearance on Thursday against Benecia in Sacramento.
"That's been the goal since day one of baseball," he said.
Though River Valley's overall record against its cross-town rival falls to 0-12, Friday's loss was hardly a working over like games of years past. This time, the Honkers, who play Vallejo on Thursday, showed they could manufacture runs even without the big pop that has defined their run of dominance.
Five of Yuba City's runs scored without an RBI hit, using sacrifice flies, squeeze plays, lazy grounders and steals to inch its way to victory without getting an extra-base hit.
River Valley scored its two runs in the second after a Colin Gault grounder found a hole and became a two-RBI single.
"It was a tight game," Stassi said.
But the outcome once again belonged to the Honkers, who had a letter written by Stassi read to them over the P.A. system after the game.
"Your commitment to excellence has resulted in yet another year for Honker baseball and your legacy is now ingrained here forever. You have an opportunity ahead of you that will further your chances of being one of the best teams to ever put on a Honker uniform ... That is the mission that you have been working on all year."