With eye-black smeared down the sides of his face and a semi-mohawk under his cap, Sagun Gainey looked the part of a Warrior, mascot of Tehachapi High.
The senior pitcher played the part, too, during the semifinals of the Central Section Division II baseball playoffs.
Gainey scored the only run his team would need in the top of the first inning, then went out and fired a two-hitter to lead fifth-seeded Tehachapi to a 2-0 upset of No. 1 Mt. Whitney on Tuesday at Shazade Field. The Warriors will face No. 3 Redwood in the D-II final at 8 p.m. May 30 at Visalia’s Rawhide Ballpark, site of all six section finals.
“He stayed in the zone,” Mt. Whitney coach Nick Yockey said. “You’ve got to give it to him. He’s a real good pitcher.”
The West Yosemite League champion Pioneers (18-9) put two runners on base three times against the 6-foot, right-handed Gainey, but came away empty-handed each time.
Gainey induced a 1-6-3 double-play grounder from Jacob Ruby to escape a two-on, one-out threat in the first, saw third baseman Nash Franko dig a hard grounder for an unassisted out that stranded two runners in the second, and got a strikeout and a groundout after a walk and an error put two Mt. Whitney runners on base in the sixth.
“We were hitting it right at people,” Yockey said. “We hit a couple balls hard where they made good plays. At this point, they were better than us today.”
Gainey finished it off with a perfect seventh, catching Carter Johnson looking at a third strike for the final out. Gainey struck out four, walked two and was aided by two double plays.
“My curveball was really working for me,” Gainey said. “I just had to focus and keep throwing, pitch the way I pitch.”
The speedy Gainey helped Tehachapi (24-5-1) get on the scoreboard in the top of the first when he hit what looked to be a routine grounder to short. But, hurrying because of Gainey’s speed, Pioneers shortstop Holden Powell double-clutched and uncorked a throw that pulled first baseman Jordan Reyes off the bag.
Then Mt. Whitney starter Phillip Dinis – trying to keep the Warrior standout, who entered with 19 steals in 20 attempts, close – threw wildly to first, sending Gainey racing to third. He scored on Franko’s single up the middle.
Tehachapi, co-champion of the South Yosemite League, got an insurance run in the fourth when Cade Temple led off with a double and eventually scored on Tim Williams’ squeeze play.
“We’re going to work harder to be the better team, no matter what,” Gainey said. “No matter if we are down or up, we’re just going to keep on working.”
Redwood received a two-run double from Gunnar Haskill in a seven-run bottom of the fourth that carried the No. 3 Rangers over No. 10 Bakersfield 7-6 in the other D-II semifinal.
Division III – Jacob Hernandez pitched a three-hitter with seven strikeouts and contributed three hits offensively to lead 13th-seeded Porterville to a 4-2 upset of top-seeded Kerman.
Joe Valdez added two hits and two RBIs for the Panthers, who will play No. 6 Selma at 1 p.m. Monday for the title.
Selma advanced on Richie Salinas’ two out, two-run double in the bottom of the seventh that lifted the Bears to a 6-5 win over No. 10 Ridgeview.
Selma also received doubles from Jordon Garcia and Jordan Dominguez.
Division IV – Top-seeded Firebaugh advanced to the final, set for 9:30 a.m. Monday, with a 3-0 victory over No. 4 Exeter.
The Eagles will play No. 2 Immanuel, who won 11-1 over No. 3 Fowler.
Division V – Rance Danell’s three-run double in the bottom of the sixth put the finishing touches on top-seeded Central Valley Christian’s 14-5 victory over No. 4 Minarets for a spot in the final at 4 p.m. May 31.
The Cavaliers will face second-seeded and defending division champion Cesar Chavez, which beat No. 3 Liberty-Madera Ranchos 8-7 in the other semifinal.
Division VI – Top-seeded Sierra beat No. 4 McFarland and No. 2 Kern Valley topped No. 3 Lindsay 5-4 in eight innings to earn spots in the final, set for 4 p.m. May 31.
Volleyball – Travis Leutmixay and Manuel Lozano each had 13 kills, while Brandon Bacerra added 36 assists as third-seeded Sanger (31-9) beat No. 6 Cathedral-Los Angeles 25-20, 25-18, 25-14 in the opening round of the CIF Southern California Regional Division II playoffs.
The Apaches will face the winner between No. 2 Burroughs-Burbank and No. 7 Chatsworth in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Second-seeded Buchanan, meanwhile, was upset by No. 7 Beckman-Irvine 19-25, 25-16, 25-22, 22-25, 16-14 in a Division I opener despite 16 kills apiece from Nik Gettman and Donovan Mitchell.