Roc Murray earlier in the week spoke glowingly of the region’s competition, the talent, the coaching, the tradition.
But the veteran Rocklin High School baseball coach didn’t immediately lump his team into the mix as a heavyweight program of renown. The No. 6 Thunder is officially in that class now, having placed third in a national tournament earlier this season, winning the wildly competitive Sierra Foothill League championship and now beating Bee No. 1-ranked Elk Grove.
Scoring all of its runs in the first inning and riding more standout pitching from Ryan Smith and ace Logan Webb, Rocklin toppled the state’s third-ranked team 4-3 Saturday at Sacramento City College in Sac-Joaquin Section Division I-North play.
And this was a triumph that sends ripples of notice throughout the tournament as Elk Grove (23-5) had its 18-game winning streak brought to a halt, making its quest to repeat as large-school champions all the more daunting as it is now thrust into the losers’ bracket.
Rocklin (18-11) has won two games in a row, but they are titanic victories, using a walk-off hit to beat No. 4 Oak Ridge 7-6 in their playoff opener Wednesday, and then this, the program’s most significant effort since moving up to D-I status a year ago.
“That’s a really big win,” said Murray, the only varsity coach in program history and a winner of three D-II section titles. “But there’s a lot left. There’s not a lot of time to enjoy it. (Elk Grove) is not close to being done. If we see them again, I’d be scared to death.”
Rocklin managed just three hits, but it was patient at the plate in the first inning, drawing four walks, and it played good defense and received typically stout pitching. Webb, Blake Laurin and Eric Petersen each had RBI hits. Elk Grove scored twice in the first and one in the seventh but was otherwise stymied.
A lanky and strong 6-foot-5 senior, Smith struck out four to move to 6-3, and Webb, days after striking out 11 in 51/3 against Oak Ridge, earned the save, striking out Derek Hill and Brooks Day.
Murray deemed Smith’s outing “outstanding” and added that Webb is a “great weapon to have, and he competes like crazy.” Webb will start Tuesday against another regional powerhouse in Bee No. 3 Davis, with the winner advancing to Friday’s North finals.
“Ryan was awesome,” Webb said of Smith. “(Elk Grove) has studs. Derek Hill is an absolute stud. Very good team. I’m excited. I’m ready to go.”
So is Elk Grove. The Herd may go with Ty Madrigal on Monday against Franklin after Rocklin chased him in the first. He has had some superb outings, including taking a no-hitter into the seventh in an 11-3 victory over Franklin on April 29. Elk Grove has the sort of pitching depth to make a run at its eighth North title since 2002 under coach Jeff Carlson.
Davis 14, Franklin 6 – The Blue Devils scored five runs in the first inning and six in the fourth to beat their Delta Valley Conference rivals who were uncharacteristically sloppy on defense and flat after eliminating Pleasant Grove, winner of 12 in a row, in an opener. No. 5 Franklin (20-10) had seven errors. The Wildcats won the D-I North in 2012 and reached the North finals last season.
Hudson Forrester had four RBIs and Matt Trask two for Davis (18-11-1), which won section titles in 2000 and 2004. Leadoff hitter John Ariola scored three runs, and Trey Golston, Nate Curtis and Quentin McCray each scored twice.
Christian Brothers 8, Kennedy 1 – Lucas Still struck out 12 and allowed one hit through five innings as the No. 11 Falcons (21-6) beat the Cougars (15-11) in a Division-II best-of-three opener at American River College. Thursday, Steven Talbert threw a four-hitter to beat American Canyon to improve to 9-1. Talbert may start Tuesday against the Cougars.
Metropolitan League champion Kennedy may go with ace Adam Takeuchi (5-1) in Game 2 after the senior beat Vanden in a Thursday opener.
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.