•Reliever Casey Wagnon denies Bullard in seventh
• Edison in line for top seed in Division II playoffs
• Bullard, battling through pitching injuries, loses 5-0 lead
Leave it to Edison and Bullard to raise the boiler a few degrees and scald the entrance to the Central Section baseball playoffs.
It hardly matters any more — football, basketball, baseball, marbles, whatever — when the County/Metro Athletic Conference rivals duel, we can count on getting what we didn’t in Pacquiao-Mayweather: action, debate and drama.
And, sure enough, they provided it all Friday at Edison in a regular-season ending show that had the Tigers hang on for an 8-7 win and a CMAC title tie with Madera.
This was a game that had Bullard lead 5-0, Edison lead 6-5, Edison lead 8-6, Edison lead 8-7 and Bullard advance a runner to third with two outs in the top of the seventh.
But, wait: That was only after the Knights, trailing 8-6, loaded the bases with no outs in the inning before grounding into a double play that saw a runner ruled out at second for oversliding the bag and into Tigers second baseman Chris Galarza.
That resulted in Bullard coach Chad Thornhill taking on everyone called “blue” from here to Bakersfield and assistants from both teams being ejected.
It may have been a non-issue anyway because it appeared the relay throw to first beat batter Eric Regier in what would have been a conventional 6-4-3 double play, and to heck with the dispute.
This can hardly be argued: Edison has, pound for pound, the best player in Central Section baseball in Casey Wagnon.
And it was this 5-foot-8, 135-pound senior left-hander, zipping a fastball in the mid-80s, and with movement, who closed the deal by striking out three in 12/3 innings, including the game-ender with the runner on third.
“I’ve never been more nervous in my baseball career,” he says.
His résumé suggests there’s been little of that.
Wagnon is 4-0 with four saves, a 1.57 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 221/3 innings, and he’s hitting nearly .300.
It was his two-run single that triggered a six-run Tigers second that suddenly swung the momentum away from eighth-ranked Bullard (19-12), which entered the day tied with Edison and Madera atop the CMAC. And the Knights appeared on their way to a title tie with the 5-0 lead behind Nick Napoli’s RBI triple, single and two runs, and Jake Pizzo’s two-run double. Pizzo (elbow), in his third season of varsity as a junior, is among three top Knights shelved from pitching with injuries.
Edison’s Alec Demaria, who aspires to be a lawyer, won the debate of the day by going 3 for 4, doubling twice and driving in three runs.
Tyler Turney, who bats just ahead of Demaria as one of the section’s elite leadoff hitters, had two hits, scored twice and doubled in a run for 22-8 Edison, which will attempt to replicate a Division II title it won in 2002.
It’s been an odd journey since.
The Tigers, didn’t even participate in the playoffs in an 11-20 season in 2013 and volunteered up to D-I last year before asking to return to D-II this season. The request was granted because they had been initially placed in D-II in the section’s new, three-year realignment cycle in 2014.
Winning Friday, and the CMAC co-championship with it, would seem to secure the D-II seed over West Yosemite League titlist El Diamante because Edison has the edge in strength of schedule.
Seedings in six divisions of both baseball and softball will be determined today in Porterville by section commissioner Jim Crichlow and his committee.
Addition baseball top seeds favor Buchanan (D-I), Kerman (D-III), Exeter (D-IV), Chavez (D-V) and Farmersville (D-VI).
“Our kids have played well and I think we’ll get it,” Tigers coach Cliff Rold says of the D-II top billing. “I think we’re in a good spot. And if we play our best, I think we have a good chance of being the best.”