Elk Grove has ridden the back of ace pitcher David Smith all the way to the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division I North baseball championship game.
The senior righthander has appeared in all four of the Herd’s playoff games, winning three of them. Two of those wins came in relief.
Tuesday night was Smith’s most impressive outing thus far as he got the starting nod against Delta River League champion Pleasant Grove in the North Division I semi-final game at Sacramento City College.
|EGHS pitcher Dave Smith, who picked up third playoff|
win with complete game shutout Tuesday.
Smith gave the Eagles a textbook lesson in pitching by throwing a complete-game four-hit shutout and Elk Grove defeated Pleasant Grove, 5-0. Smith had a season-high 13 strikeouts, walked no one, but did hit three batters. None of the Eagles reached third base.
In a bit of revenge for a stinging 11-1 loss to the Eagles and lefthander Josh Adams in the Northern California championship of the Boras Baseball Classic in March, Elk Grove this time took advantage of a pair of key errors in scoring three runs in the first inning and two more in the third.
Just like Elk Grove did in the loss to the Eagles in March, Pleasant Grove committed five errors Tuesday night.
All of the Herd runs came with two out. In the first frame, Dom Nunez reached first on a throwing error by Pleasant Grove shortstop Bronson Grubbs. Rowdy Tellez then chopped a ball into the dirt in front of the plate, but Eagle catcher Nico Toni misplayed it and the Herd had runners on first and second.
After Derek Hill walked, Mikey Wright lined a ball to deep right. Eagle outfielder Nick Doyich seemed to get his legs tangled as he backpedaled, lost his footing and the ball ticked off his glove. The bases cleared and Wright ended up on third with what was ruled as a triple.
In the third inning Tellez’ fly ball to center was dropped. Hill followed with a sharp ground ball that Eagle third baseman Matthew Stafford tried to backhand but whiffed. That put runners at second and third. Wright then delivered again, this time with a single to center to drive in both Elk Grove runners.
|Herd's Mikey Wright, 5 RBI's Tuesday, likely|
starter in Friday's championship game
Wright ended up driving in all five Herd runs Tuesday.
Elk Grove threatened to score more that inning by loading the bases with one out so Eagle coach Rob Rinaldi went to the bullpen and replaced Adams with Andrew Cisneros. He got Nick Madrigal to hit into an inning-ending double play.
After Smith retired the first ten Pleasant Grove batters in a row, Adams and Toni hit back-to-back singles in the fourth inning, but Smith coaxed Beau Boyle into an infield pop-up and struck out Austin Friello to end the threat.
The Eagles tried again to get on the scoreboard in the sixth inning. Grubbs and Adams were both hit by Smith pitches to open that frame, but Toni flew out to right field and both Boyle and Friello struck out to end the inning.
The loss means that the Eagles now must play Franklin, 12-3 winners over Davis Monday, on Thursday night at Union Stadium. The winner will play Elk Grove Friday at 4 p.m. If that team beats the Herd, a second game in the double-elimination tournament will follow at 7 p.m.
It is likely Wright will start for Elk Grove in Friday's first game.
The last time Elk Grove was in the North Division I championship game was in 2010. That year, coming out of the losers’ bracket, the Herd beat Jesuit, 4-1 and 11-0, to win the North.
With a team that featured J.D. Davis (Fullerton State), Jake Rodriguez (Oregon State), Will Soto (Sacramento State) and Colby Brenner (Long Beach State), Elk Grove went on to the championship series but dropped two in a row to St. Mary’s of Stockton. Nunez and Tellez were both freshmen on that club.
St. Mary’s has won the last three Division I baseball championships. A year ago they defeated Franklin in two games.
The last Section championship won by Elk Grove was in 2007.