What's a rivalry game without some fun, flavor and fireworks?
In high school baseball, this theme includes just about any meeting between Davis and Elk Grove, Delta Valley Conference rivals steeped in tradition.
On Friday in Elk Grove, a collision at the plate in the first inning prompted an ejection and had coaches from both sides chewing on umpires, all of which ignited the Thundering Herd.
No. 2 Elk Grove rolled 12-2 in five innings over the top-ranked Blue Devils, chasing ace Matt Trask and now bearing down for a bit more as the regular season concludes in Yolo County on Tuesday.
The teams, both sporting 13-1 league records, will decide the championship at Davis, then enter the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs as contenders. Elk Grove seeks its 10th league title since 2001 and 20th since 1985. Davis seeks its fourth title in seven seasons.
"This is exactly what you want, the best teams playing for the title at the end," Elk Grove senior catcher and team leader Dom Nunez said. "We're trying to build up for the playoffs, get hot, and this is how you do it."
Nunez was plenty hot after that play at the plate as the Herd ultimately cooled off the Blue Devils, who had won 13 consecutive games. Davis senior Joe Murray crashed into Nunez, shoulder up and several feet up the line from the plate for an easy out. High school rules stipulate that runners cannot make malicious contact at the plate. Nunez landed on his back, then jumped up to show the ball. He and Murray exchanged snarls. Murray was ejected for the bowl-over. Per high school rules, he must sit out the next game, a crushing loss given his skills and leadership.
Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson said the play was "uncalled for" and that it inspired his team. Elk Grove (21-4) hammered out 12 hits and played error-less ball. Davis (20-6) had five hits and committed five errors.
"We're both 13-1, and we have a chance to bounce back and win the championship," Davis coach Dan Ariola said. "Joe Murray is not a dirty player. It was definitely unfortunate. But give Elk Grove credit. They beat us."
On senior day, Elk Grove was paced by ace David Smith, who struck out five to move to 7-1. The bottom of the Herd order, with Ty Madrigal and D.J. Mico, combined for four RBIs, and No. 2 hitter Carlos Moseley drove in three for Elk Grove, which improved to 11-0 at home this season. Key Elk Grove seniors include Nunez, fellow major-league prospect Rowdy Tellez and third baseman-No. 2 pitcher Mikey Wright.
The rest of the lineup including Nick Madrigal, Derek Hill and Dylan Carlson are underclassmen. Ty Madrigal, Mico and Moseley each had RBI singles for a 5-0 Herd lead in the third, and Moseley had a two-run double for a 10-2 advantage in the fourth, when the Herd batted around in a five-run inning.
"They're fearless competitors," Nunez said. "It's unbelievable how good they are. It's really impressive."
Trask, the impressive junior, came in 6-1, including a 2-1 victory over Elk Grove last month in which he drove in the winner in the bottom of the seventh with an infield hit.