The Minarets Mustangs (17-14), seeded No. 1, came up short in their quest for their first Division VI section title in baseball, as Sierra Pacific beat the Mustangs 6-0 behind a four-hitter by pitcher Connor Mannix.
The Golden Bears, of Hanford, were returning to the championship game after losing to Mendota last year.
Mustang fans had hopes of seeing coach Don Watkins team make history, in just their second year of varsity ball. There are more than 100 teams in the Central Section and the Mustangs were one of 12 still playing as the playoffs rounds came down to the Championship games.
It was obvious the Mustangs started the game a bit tight as junior starting pitcher Chance Carter (4-4, 3.17 ERA) had control problems from the start. After striking out the Golden Bears lead off batter, Carter struggled to find the plate. Back to back walks brought Sierra Pacific's big stick to the plate, senior Connor Mannix, who dropped a ball just beyond the infield to score Frank Garza from second base.
Carter would hit the next batter to load the bases, and by the end of the first inning, he walked in three more runs.
Sierra Pacific's starting left-handed pitcher Mannix (6-3 on the year), kept the Mustangs off balance throughout the game, lowering his ERA to 0.58 on the season. Mannix ended the year ranked No. 3 in the Central Section in ERA while ranking No. 12 in strikeouts with 85.
The Mustangs entered the game with a .364 team batting average.
The game would turn into a pitchers dual as Carter regained his control and went on the shut out Sierra Pacific through 4 1/3 inning. Carter left the game with after five innings with 10 strike-outs, giving him 78 on the season.
Senior relief pitcher Eric Pincus, walked Sierra Pacific's first batter to start the sixth. Catcher Keenan Reardon threw out the runner attempting to steal second. An error at third led to another runner at first. Pincus's wild throw on a pick off attempt put the runner at second with one out. Back to back singles, with an error, gave Sierra Pacific two more runs to go up by six.
Minarets surrendered six hits in the game but walked eight batters and hit two more. Sierra Pacific played flawless ball throughout the game to earn the win.
Minarets had a season low four hits on the day. Sam Reyes and Scott Parker each hit doubles. Zeb Patterson and Sam Romero added singles, but the Mustangs couldn't put any hits together and were shut out for the first time on the season.
Following the game, Watkins congratulated his team on a great season. The Mustangs ended the season ranked No. 1 in stolen bases in the Central Section, with 162 on the year, 51 bases in front of No. 2. Their .359 team batting average ranks No. 4 in the Central Section. All of the Mustangs starting eight position players hit better than .300 on the year. The team finished No. 7 in the Central Section with 228 runs scored, big numbers for a team starting eight juniors.
The Mustangs, losing only three seniors, Matt Luce, Tyson Conti and Pincus, will enter next season a favorite to return to the title game.
Other valley baseball titles were won by Clovis North (D-I), Madera (D-II), Golden West (D-III), Selma (D-IV), and Firebaugh (D-V).
The Sierra Pacific softball team, seeded No.1, also won the Division VI title by beating No. 3 seed Laton 7-1.