When you think of the eyebrow-raising senior talent at Elk Grove High School, those generating recruiting and Major League Baseball scouting interest, you immediately envision Rowdy Tellez and Dom Nunez.
But it is the efforts of two other seniors who have proven to be every bit as valuable to the Thundering Herd in Mikey Wright and David Smith, leaders and achievers in every regard.
Wright had five RBIs and Smith tossed a four-hit gem with a career-best 13 strikeouts to send Bee No. 2-ranked Elk Grove past No. 4 Pleasant Grove 5-0 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I-North winners' bracket contest before a near-capacity crowd at Sacramento City College on Tuesday night.
Smith, a lanky 6-foot-4 right-hander is putting together one of the great pitching stretches in section playoff history.
Smith (10-2) has three victories in this tournament and a save, three times coming on in relief to apply control and confidence.
A third baseman and the team's No. 2 pitcher, Wright (5-0) takes the mound Friday.
Elk Grove (26-5) needs one win over the losers' bracket survivor between Pleasant Grove and Franklin to give the storied Herd its seventh North title since 2002 under coach Jeff Carlson.
"They are star power," the power-hitting Tellez insisted of Smith and Wright. "Without Mikey, it's still a 0-0 game tonight. Without Dave tonight, who knows? We're here because of them."
Said Nunez, the catcher, "those guys are great."
And Carlson said of Smith and Wright, "They're silent assassins. They're very unassuming, great kids, great students and great examples of kids you love to coach. You've got to have that bulldog mentality, to want to compete, and they do."
It was a frustrating night for the other senior star in this battle of Elk Grove Unified School District powers.
Left-hander Josh Adams started for Pleasant Grove (24-8) and was undone by an uncharacteristic five errors by his normally superb defense. None of the Herd's five runs was earned.
Wright tripled in three runs to right in the first inning for a 3-0 lead, and his two-run single made it 5-0 in the third.
Smith, using his curve and a strong defense behind him that included Nick and Ty Madrigal, Carlos Moseley, D.J. Mico and Derek Hill, retired the first 10 batters he faced and struck out the side in the seventh.
Smith offered a glimpse of what he could do in the playoffs last year when he tossed a no-hitter.
Wright is headed to San Jose State on scholarship.
Smith is still hoping for a similar offer, adding, "I'll just keep working and playing and see what happens."
Said Wright of himself and Smith, "We love our role. We knew we had to pick up the slack this year. We just do our job. We do what we do."