Sam Long has been there and done that.
Now he's ready for the next challenge.
Though intrigued with the opportunity to help Del Campo repeat as Sac-Joaquin Section Division II baseball champions, Long said he has thrown his final high school fastball. The junior ace will graduate as a senior in December and enroll at Sacramento State, where he will play for the Hornets on scholarship.
While it's become more common for blue-chip football prospects to graduate early to enroll in college so they can participate in spring drills, it's rare in baseball.
So rare, it's the first such local case we've come across.
The left-handed Long said it's time. The honors student said he likes the vision of Hornets coach Reggie Christiansen, who has stockpiled his roster with area talent in posting back-to-back 30-win seasons. Other locals headed to Sac State include traditional graduates Tyler Blake, a Franklin first baseman, and Granite Bay pitcher Gabe Meza.
Long closed his prep career with a 14-strikeout gem to beat Bethel of Vallejo 3-2, and then struck out six to beat Benicia 2-0 in the title game.
"I had a blast at Del Campo, but I'm ready for college, and I really believe in what coach Christiansen is doing," he said. "It's just a great fit for me. I can't wait."
With Chandler Eden striking out 14 in a 2-0, no-hit victory over Colfax in the D-III final, the Yuba City pitcher added to a long list of stellar regional playoff pitching efforts over the decades:
Dave Smith, Sacramento, 1944: Fifty years before a rule limited pitchers to 10 innings a week, Smith struck out 27 in 19 innings to beat Woodland 3-2. It's a Northern California record likely destined for eternity.
Butch Edge, El Camino, 1974: As a senior, Edge struck out 19 to beat Grace Davis of Modesto 3-0 in the Division I playoffs. He was the highest-drafted prospect in area history, going sixth overall to Milwaukee and is still regarded by longtime area scouts as the pitcher with the best "live arm" in playoff history.
Steve Young, Amador, 1982: No, not that Steve Young. This one fanned 25 in 11 innings in the D-III championship against Riverbank. However, Young took the loss in a 3-2 defeat.
Jim Sloan, Casa Roble, 1986: The hard-throwing ace no-hit Grant with 12 strikeouts in a 1-0 D-I victory, leading to the program's first championship.
Brian Furtado, Elk Grove, 1990: He no-hit Kennedy 4-0 with six strikeouts, sparking the school's first D-I championship.
Efren Canchola, Woodland, 1994: The left-hander no-hit Bella Vista 2-0 with 11 strikeouts in D-I, saying, "I pitched out of my mind."
J.P. Howell, Jesuit, 2001: The left-hander struck out 19 in seven innings to beat Del Campo 3-1. In the same tournament, Howell, now with the Dodgers, struck out 14 to beat Bear Creek of Lodi 6-0 for a tournament record 33 in back-to-back efforts. In the fifth inning, a Bear Creek assistant coach roared into the American River College press box and barked at public address announcer Len Frizzi to quit announcing Howell's strikeout total.
Replied the unflappable Frizzi: "Stop striking out."
Mason Magleby, Del Oro, 2009: Magleby struck out 13 to beat Oak Ridge 2-0 in D-II. Magleby now plays quarterback at Sac State.
Kyle Porter, Oak Ridge, 2010: He fanned 18 in an eight-inning, 1-0 perfect-game win over Union Mine in D-II. He now pitches for Cal.
Stephen Nogosek, Woodcreek, 2011: As a sophomore, he struck out 16 in seven innings to beat Casa Roble 2-0 in D-II. Nogosek could be selected in the baseball draft next week.
David Smith, Elk Grove, 2012: Smith struck out nine batters while throwing a 1-0, no-hit win over Napa in D-I play. He later calmed his nerves with a lollipop.