Trenton Denholm draws a crowd when he takes the mound – men armed with briefcases, radar guns and note pads.
The senior pitcher for Oak Ridge High School is a draft prospect, not because of his slender 6-foot frame but for his skills, composure and the hard-to-ignore results.
On Wednesday afternoon at Sacramento City College, Denholm rallied from a 3-0 first-inning hole to settle down nicely, and then he cruised. He struck out eight and drove in two runs to help power the Trojans past Napa 13-3 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I-North contest halted after five innings due to the mercy rule at Union Stadium.
Denholm also has quite a fan in Todd Melton, who has his 10th consecutive playoff team at Oak Ridge and lists his ace as perhaps his greatest player.
“He’s had major scouts at games all season, high guys in organizations,” Melton said. “Some may not like him because of his size, but plenty others do, and everyone likes his intangibles. And he’s just really, really good.”
Those intangibles go beyond his six wins this season and 1.14 ERA (and 16 career wins, 0.89 ERA, 150 strikeouts in 118.1 innings and opponent batting average of .176).
“Trenton’s a bulldog,” Melton said. “There’s no drama involved in that kid, and he’s a great kid. He’s worked his tail off. He’s a great leader, by example, a great competitor.”
A competitor with some good teammates eager to win the program’s first D-I title. Oak Ridge reached the North finals last season before falling to Elk Grove.
Center fielder Cameron Allie and left fielder Rhys Kennedy each drove in two runs against Napa. Third baseman Tino Bethancourt, first baseman Brady Rodriguez, Denholm and Kennedy each scored two runs as the Trojans hammered out 11 hits against the Indians of the Monticello Empire League.
Napa eliminated Franklin in a playoff opener, and Napa handed Denholm a 3-2 loss in a season opener.
Oak Ridge (20-8) endured a daunting schedule this season and benefited from it, including going 15-3 in the power-packed Sierra Foothill League that includes Granite Bay, which plays Davis on Thursday at Sac City. The Trojans also beat No. 1 South bracket seed Tracy twice.
“The losses early weren’t necessarily bad for us,” Denholm said. “I’m having a fun year. I’ll acknowledge the scouts and that they’re there, but I can’t let it affect me or it’ll take me off my game.”
Denholm has options. He’s sure to get drafted but if he doesn’t sign, Denholm has a commitment to play at UC Irvine. He plans to pitch for many years to come.
“The draft is something to think about after the season,” Denholm said.
Baseball has been a big part of Denholm’s life growing up in El Dorado Hills. He was a dominant pitcher in Little League, and he’s carried that over through three varsity seasons with Oak Ridge, honing his craft each season. His brother Logan is a catcher at UC Davis.
And a cousin of Denholm’s mother, Judi, is Rod Barajas, a catcher who won a World Series ring with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, hitting a home run in Game 5 against the Yankees.
Elk Grove 10, Woodcreek 2 – Riley Lamb crushed a two-run homer in the first inning and had three hits and three RBIs, and the USC-bound senior ace struck out seven to power the two-time defending champion Herd past the Timberwolves at Sac City.
Jake Jordan drove in two and struck out two in the seventh in relief of Lamb, who scored three runs. Elk Grove allowed four hits.
Left fielder Shawn Zamora had three RBIs and shortstop Tanner Carlson, son of coach Jeff Carlson, had an RBI triple. Leadoff hitter Kordell Brown scored twice for Elk Grove, which produced 10 hits and had five walks.
Elk Grove (18-10) plays Oak Ridge on Saturday at noon at Sac City in the double-elimination phase of the tournament in a battle of the section’s top two leagues. Elk Grove won the Delta League and Oak Ridge the SFL.
Davis plays Granite Bay on Thursday at 4 p.m. at Sac City, followed by top-seeded Vacaville against Del Oro. The SFL is 4-1 in the D-I playoffs behind Oak Ridge, Granite Bay and Del Oro with Woodcreek the lone loss.