Early Tuesday evening, Todd Melton talked about some of the great shortstops he has observed in high school over the decades in this region.
Dustin Pedroia of Woodland and Boston Red Sox fame tops the Melton list. But Melton, the veteran Oak Ridge coach, has fast become a fan of his own infield marvel.
Trojans shortstop Beau Philip has made some spectacular plays in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North playoffs, and his defense in a semifinal game against Elk Grove energized his team and the fans who came from El Dorado Hills to brave the Candlestick-like conditions at Sacramento City College’s Union Stadium.
The senior also showed versatility by earning the victory in relief as Oak Ridge prevailed 2-1 in nine gripping innings in a battle of The Sacramento Bee’s top-ranked teams entering the postseason.
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The top-seeded Trojans won in dramatic fashion. Cameron Allie’s suicide squeeze in the bottom of the ninth allowed a hard-charging Trenton Denholm to score, setting off a wild celebration.
Oak Ridge (24-5) advanced to Friday’s North finale against the winner of Wednesday’s losers’ bracket finale between Elk Grove (21-9) and Woodcreek (23-8).
I keep promoting the SFL. Last year, the remaining teams were Elk Grove, Granite Bay and us. All of these teams are really good. Elk Grove has been getting it done a lot over the years, winning. We’ve been knocking on the door.
Oak Ridge coach Todd Melton
“We’ve seen a lot of great plays from Beau this season,” Melton said. “Amazing. Dustin Pedroia is the best high school player I’ve ever seen. Beau’s really, really good, too. His range is incredible. Fun to watch.”
Oak Ridge started No. 3 pitcher Tyler Condie, allowing ace Denholm more rest after he earned a 3-1 victory over Davis last Thursday, moving his record to 10-0 with an 0.22 ERA.
Denholm will be fresh and eager for Friday’s game, and the Trojans would have to lose twice to be denied their first D-I North title.
In eight mound appearances spanning 10 innings, Philip is 2-0 and hasn’t allowed an earned run. Not a bad secondary gig for one of the state’s elite shortstops.
“We feel like we’re in great shape with Trenton Denholm for Friday,” Melton said.
But Melton also will remind his crew that teams have battled through the losers’ bracket to win titles, including Elk Grove last season.
The Sierra Foothill League has two of the three remaining teams in the North bracket in Oak Ridge and Woodcreek. Elk Grove hails from the Delta League.
“I keep promoting the SFL,” Melton said. “Last year, the remaining teams were Elk Grove, Granite Bay and us. All of these teams are really good. Elk Grove has been getting it done a lot over the years, winning. We’ve been knocking on the door.”
Alex Zalasky pitched a strong game for Elk Grove, walking one and striking out four. He just didn’t get enough offensive help.
We’ve seen a lot of great plays from Beau this season. Amazing. Dustin Pedroia is the best high school player I’ve ever seen. Beau’s really, really good, too. His range is incredible. Fun to watch.
Oak Ridge coach Todd Melton, on Trojans shortstop Beau Philip
In the second inning, Billy Martina laced a single up the middle off the glove of shortstop Josh Urps, scoring Brendan Galbreath for a 1-0 lead. The Thundering Herd tied it 1-1 when pinch hitter Bryce Jamias drove in Urps with a single in the seventh.
Philip then relieved Condie and was solid.
Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson knows his team has a lot of fight left. Besides, it’s a game, he regularly tells his bunch, so enjoy it, respect it and don’t overthink it.
“It’s a lot of fun,” the veteran coach said. “We could be putting away our equipment, getting ready for summer. But we’re not.
“Three best teams are left. It’s all played out. Now it’s down to execution, eliminating mistakes, competing.”