By any measure, the Sierra Foothill League has been a top-tier collection of baseball talent for years.
But for all of the scholarship and drafted players and playoff success in Division II, including eight Sac-Joaquin Section titles since 2000, the move up to the D-I ranks has largely been humbling.
The SFL went 0-3 in its first D-I playoff run last year and entered Wednesday 0-2 this year after Granite Bay and Del Oro fell in extra innings to Davis and Franklin, respectively.
Rocklin ended the misery with a 7-6 victory over Oak Ridge at Sacramento City College behind another dominant effort from ace Logan Webb, though not fully exhaling until after a walk-off hit by Kyle Schafer to cap a wild seventh inning.
Rocklin coach Roc Murray, working the third-base box, frantically waved Brad Dorward home for the winning run, then held him up halfway down the line, then urged him home again as the relay throw was high. The Thunder baseball coach since the school opened in Placer County in 1993, Murray punctuated the moment by pumping his fist.
“I told our guys before the game that the SFL was 0-5 (in D-I postseason play) and that’s gotta cease,” said an excited Murray, who led three D-II section championship teams from 2007 to 2010. “I really like this these guys. They’re good kids, terrific.”
The praise includes Webb. The senior power pitcher struck out 11 and allowed five hits nine days after wowing scouts in a 1-0 victory over rival Granite Bay, his fastball topping out at 96 mph.
Webb’s fastball touched 95 mph at Sac City, and he departed after 61/3 innings with a 6-1 lead after walking a batter. Oak Ridge scored five runs to tie the score in the top of the seventh, including a bases-loaded walk and a balk. Murray didn’t second-guess taking Webb out after 93 pitches, saying, “We’re not in the business of wearing kids out. He’s special, a tremendous pitcher.”
Said Webb of the late theatrics: “It was a little hectic, but we won. Feels good.”
Webb said his arm has rounded into shape, explaining why he’s throwing harder than ever before. That he quarterbacked the Thunder to the football playoffs allowed him plenty of time to ease into the spring. Not playing year-round baseball, he said, has paid off. He’s suddenly a hot prospect for Major League Baseball scouts who flock to him after games.
“I play two sports because it’s fun – enjoy high school,” Webb said. “I came in rested this spring, and I’m having a great time.”
Ryan Smith had three hits and A.J. Sauer had a two-run single for a 3-0 first-inning lead for Rocklin (17-11). Erik McNeill had two hits and two RBIs and Tyson Solis had two hits for Oak Ridge (18-10).
Elk Grove 6, Vintage 2 – Brooks Day had a two-run single to highlight a three-run fifth inning, and Chris Martin tossed a three-hitter for the defending section champion Thundering Herd.
Martin struck out seven in improving to 5-2 for Elk Grove (23-4), which has won 18 consecutive games and eliminated the Crushers of Napa (15-13) for the second successive season.
Standout infielders Nick Madrigal and Carlos Moseley combined for four hits, and Elk Grove had no errors. The Herd plays Rocklin at noon Saturday at Sac City as the postseason shifts to a double-elimination format.
In its winning streak, Elk Grove has beaten state powers Buchanan of Fresno, St. Francis of Mountain View and Temecula Valley, and toppled regional powers Davis and Franklin twice each.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.