Coaches said they were good, really good.
Their record-book performances now prove it.
First, junior Eddie Vanderdoes of Placer High School struck out 16 in six innings in a 9-3 victory last Wednesday over Churchill County of Fallon, Nev., in the River City Classic.
Vanderdoes also is a 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive lineman coveted by colleges across the country. He recently received a scholarship offer on the phone from Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Vanderdoes said he "can't believe what I did" against Churchill County. No Placer pitcher had fanned that many in six innings.
Two days later, Grant sophomore Cameron Avila-Leeper, 5-10 and 145 pounds, struck out 17 in seven innings in a 3-2 win over Inderkum. He struck out the side three times. No Pacer had struck out that many in seven innings.
"Incredible what Cameron did, but we're getting used to it because he struck out 16 and 13 in earlier games," said Grant coach Danny Chavez.
Avila-Leeper is a product of Grant's revived youth feeder program and the focus of renewed varsity baseball hopes. The Pacers (7-2) are off to their best start since 1991.
Vanderdoes loves baseball, but he really craves football.
Avila-Leeper, meanwhile, lives to pitch. He said he thinks about it constantly, how to improve, how to win.
"I'm just trying to get outs. I didn't know I had that many strikeouts," Avila-Leeper said.
Said Chavez, the ace of Grant's 1989 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship team, "What I really appreciate about Cameron is he has that pride to be good, to bring baseball back here."
Chavez and his coaches, LaRue Baber and Lamar Rushton, played on that 1989 section title team. They know they might feel their age in the batter's box against Avila-Leeper.
"We avoid him in practice," Chavez joked.
A look at some other all-time area pitching performances:
Dave Smith, Sacramento, 1944 He struck out 27 batters in 19 innings to beat Woodland 3-2. In the 1990s, a state rule was introduced limiting pitchers to 10 innings in a week to prevent blown arms.
Butch Edge, El Camino, 1974 He struck out 19 in seven innings to beat Grace Davis of Modesto 3-0 in the playoffs. Edge remains the area's highest-drafted player and the only local pitcher picked in the first round sixth overall by Milwaukee in 1974.
Steve Young, Amador, 1982 Struck out 20 batters, a seven-inning section record that still stands, in a 2-0 no-hitter.
Eric Berger, Woodcreek, 2003 He struck out 20 batters in a 5-0 two-hitter over Roseville. Berger pitched at Arizona and was drafted by Cleveland.
Jeremy Booher, Lincoln, 1995 Struck out 20 in eight innings to beat Colfax 3-2. Legally blind in his left eye, Booher dedicated the game to his father, Billy, a Vietnam veteran who died months earlier of heart failure.
Jim Converse, Casa Roble, 1990 Struck out 20 in nine innings against Bella Vista, which won 1-0 in 12 innings. Converse later pitched for Seattle and Kansas City.
J.P. Howell, Jesuit, 2001 Struck out 19 in seven innings to beat Del Campo 3-0 in a playoff game, tying Edge's tournament record. Howell is with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Kyle Porter, Oak Ridge, 2010 Struck out 18 in an eight-inning perfect game to beat Union Mine 1-0. Porter is a starting pitcher at Cal, which reached the College World Series last season.
Stephen Nogosek, Woodcreek, 2011 Struck out 16 in seven innings to beat Casa Roble 2-0 in a Division II playoff game. Nogosek, a junior, is 4-0.