The best compliment an athlete can receive is this: good leader, great teammate.
Those are some of the accolades offered up by members of the Elk Grove High School baseball team to standout Riley Lamb.
Not only does the USC-bound senior look the part of composed ace, he’s quite the slugger, too. With personality and a zest to compete.
Lamb struck out 11 in 5 2/3 innings and drove in three runs in his second sparkling postseason effort in a few days, and two-time defending champion Elk Grove beat Delta League rival Davis 8-3 on Tuesday night in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North semifinal at Sacramento City College.
On Saturday, Lamb struck out seven and crushed a two-run home run and had three hits and three RBIs to help eliminate Woodcreek 10-2.
And, like a true leader, Lamb was quick to point out the efforts of his teammates, including the defense of infielders Kordell Brown, Tanner Carlson, Brian Freitas and George Spithorst, who drilled a solo homer in the fourth inning to make it 8-2.
“I’m nothing without my teammates,” Lamb said. “I feel like I’m at my best right now (as a pitcher). And I’m trying to be the best leader I can be. They look up to me. They’ve told me that. I’m trying to be that rock.”
Beating fierce rival Davis for the third time this season and thrusting the Blue Devils into Thursday’s elimination game against Oak Ridge?
“Best feeling in the world,” Lamb said.
What didn’t feel so good was giving up a solo blast to John Lagattuta in the top of the fourth, pulling Davis to within 6-1. Then again, Lagattuta happens to be the Delta League MVP with some history with Lamb.
Good history in what has otherwise been a chipper rivalry over the years, including parents who hiss and bark at each other during games.
“He’s a great friend of mine,” Lamb said of Lagattuta. “We’re boys.”
Lamb got that run back in the bottom of the inning when his sacrifice fly scored Brown to make it 7-2.
Brown, the leadoff hitter and perhaps the fastest player in the section, had three hits, and Lamb and Spithorst each had two. Jack Zalasky closed the game with 1 1/3 innings, allowing one hit and striking out one as Elk Grove (20-10) moved to 3-0 in this tournament and inched closer to its 10th North title since 2002, all under coach Jeff Carlson, who leans on seniors to carry the load.
That includes Lamb, one of just a few returning players from last season.
“It’s amazing,” Carlson said of his team returning to this point each season. “We keep coming back, coming back, coming back. Seniors tend to step up. (Lamb) is a great leader. He rose to the occasion. He’s a big-time talent going to a big-time program. Proud of him.”
Elk Grove would need to lose twice Friday against Davis or Oak Ridge to be denied the title.
Can it happen? Absolutely. Elk Grove beat Oak Ridge twice in one long day to take the title last season.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” Carlson said. “I’m really proud of these guys. It’s been a process. It’s a compliment to our coaching staff and these players. But we’ve got a long way to go.”