Matt Stafford lives for this.
Big game, bigger stage. And no amount of nerves to register on the anxiety meter.
The Pleasant Grove High School junior pitched another gem Saturday afternoon, and he was backed by good defense and plenty of offense to key a 6-3 victory over Bee No. 1 Davis at festive and nearly full Sacramento City College.
The Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North effort places the No. 4 Eagles into Tuesday's winners' bracket showdown against No. 2 Elk Grove in an Elk Grove Unified School District meeting of regional powers.
Stafford tossed a four-hitter, recorded four 1-2-3 innings and walked one to improve to 8-1. He was 6-1 as a sophomore and 2-0 as a freshman.
Translation: He's used to this sort of thing.
"I love to play, and we're on a roll," Stafford said.
Pleasant Grove is 3-0 in the postseason with the same formula of pitching, offensive execution and defense.
The defense is sometimes of the spectacular variety, be it a play by shortstop Bronson Grubbs or outfielders Nick Doyich, Josh Adams and Beau Boyle.
Adams pitched a 2-1 gem to beat Rocklin in a playoff opener Monday, and Dalton Gomez and Brett Elgin combined to beat Vacaville 8-5 on Thursday.
"It starts with starting pitching," Pleasant Grove coach Rob Rinaldi said. "We've had three really good starts in a row. That's been our trademark, and the pitching has been fantastic."
On Adams, Rinaldi said, "I'm surprised if he ever loses. He's been doing this for us for three years."
Stafford hails from a baseball family. His uncle, Craig Landis, is a major-league scout, and grandfather Jim Landis played center field for the 1959 Chicago White Sox team that played in the World Series.
Pleasant Grove (24-7) scored four runs in the sixth, including a two-run double by Spencer Jemes, to make it 5-3. An Adams RBI made it 6-3 and thrust Davis (22-7) into the Monday losers' bracket game against Delta Valley Conference rival Franklin. Austin Friello doubled and tripled for Pleasant Grove, and Adams had two hits.
Adams will start Tuesday against Elk Grove, the same team he beat 11-1 on March 28 after an eight-run seventh inning by the Eagles.
Elk Grove 9, Franklin 6 David Smith relieved for the third consecutive game and earned his third successive victory to move to 9-2 for the Herd (25-5). The senior retired 10 batters in a row and received superb defensive help and plenty of offensive pop to thwart the defending North champion Wildcats (16-14).
Rowdy Tellez hit his second solo home run of the tournament, and No. 9 hitter D.J. Mico had a three-run triple in the fourth for a 5-4 lead. The outfielder finished with three RBIs, and Dom Nunez and Carlos Moseley had two hits each.
"I felt really good pitching," Smith said. "I always want to go out there. Our defense is huge. And when Rowdy hits, I'm ready to hop off my seat, even in batting practice."
Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson said of Smith: "He just wins, just competes. We feel really confident with him. You know he'll battle. He retired those 10 in a row, and we really needed that. Franklin can really catch fire."