The Franklin Wildcats may have edged their way into the sectionals after a trying season, but on Wednesday they made their mark as a serious contender.
Franklin played like a team that has come of age in belting Bee No. 1 Pleasant Grove 11-5 at Sacramento City College in Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North play.
"I really liked our chances and think we can be the best team in the section if we play like we can," Franklin coach Bryan Kilby said. "Our guys really respond to adversity. They're fired up. It's a super group of kids."
The Wildcats (20-9) led 11-1 after their half of the third inning. They scored five in the first off Pleasant Grove ace Zach Stilwell, who has been dominant at times this season but hit three batters, walked three and surrendered three hits in the first. All told, Franklin smacked 15 hits, and Josh Pigg struck out five to earn the win.
It's a far cry from when the Wildcats' bats were as cool as the weather to start the season. The Wildcats overcame a rocky March and finished third in a power-packed Delta Valley Conference that includes Elk Grove and Davis, placing them in a sectional play-in game Monday in Yountville that they won to advance.
With Tyler Blake and Kyle Von Ruden now healthy and teaming with Brandon Keup, the pitching staff seems poised for a title run. Blake had three hits and three RBIs, Kyle Zanzi had three RBIs, Von Ruden drove in two, Connor Adams had two hits and Taylor Waters had two doubles.
Pleasant Grove (22-6) had beaten Franklin 8-6 and 3-0 in nonleague games, and the Eagles also beat Oak Ridge twice and previous No. 1 Jesuit twice to win the Delta River League.
"I didn't see this coming," Pleasant Grove coach Rob Rinaldi said. "Matt Stafford pitched well (in relief) and had four zeroes on the scoreboard, but it was too late. It was a slow torture for us."
Vacaville 3, Jesuit 2 Elway Santistevan scattered six hits and his defense threw out a runner at the plate and picked two off the bases to stun Bee No. 2 Jesuit, eliminating the defending North champions.
It is Vacaville's first playoff win since the 1990s after some crushing opening-game exits, including a 5-3 loss to Jesuit in 2007.
Vacaville (18-9) lost to Pleasant Grove 4-3 and beat Davis 4-3 and Franklin 3-1 early this season in nonleague games.
"We showed up here, we competed and we played well," Vacaville coach Abe Hobbs said. "Elway doesn't pass the eye test, but that's a competitive young man."
Vacaville reliever Anthony Gonsolin struck out Zach Greene swinging with a runner on and two outs in the the seventh to end the game. Logan James struck out eight for Jesuit (20-8). For Vacaville, Gonsolin and Ben Gamba had RBIs and Santistevan had two hits.