It can be a simple game, this baseball thing.
That’s the way Alex Zalasky sees it, and his coach, too.
Simplicity played out beautifully for Elk Grove High School on Friday night as batters throughout the order swung successfully, many on two-strike counts with two outs, and Zalasky was typically strong on the mound as the staff ace.
The Thundering Herd belted Tracy 14-0 in Game 1 of this best-of-three Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship series at Pacific, placing it a step closer to more dog-pile celebration fun.
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Game 2 is at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Pacific with a third game to follow, if needed.
Elk Grove (25-9) is a victory from repeating and claiming its third title in four seasons, seventh since 2002 under coach Jeff Carlson and 10th overall. Tracy (25-8), tense and unsure at times, played as if it was in this venture for the first time, and it was.
“Our guys really came to play and were great, and it made my job easy,” said Zalasky, a recently graduated senior who improved to 7-2 in tossing a five-hitter. “All I had to do was throw strikes and let our guys play defense, and they hit really well.”
Elk Grove pounded out 16 hits and scored 13 runs with two outs, including all seven runs in the fourth inning. The game lasted just five innings before the CIF-mandated mercy rule kicked in. This marked the second-most-lopsided D-I title game in section history, behind the 21-3 rout Vallejo put on Johnson in 1991.
The offensive headliners for the Herd have been Dylan Carlson, the coach’s son, and Ryan Robards, and both inflicted damage. Carlson had two hits and the Pacific-bound Robards was 3 for 3. Robards raced home on a double steal in the first inning to make it 2-0.
Josh Urps, fifth in the batting order, had two hits and two RBIs, No. 6 hitter Riley Lamb had three hits and four RBIs, No. 7 hitter George Spithorst had his most productive game of the season with three hits and five RBIs, and his two-run double made it 10-0 in the fourth. And No. 8 hitter Erik Bolton blasted an RBI triple in the fourth to make it 11-0.
“We came out swinging,” coach Carlson said. “Throw strikes, play defense, and good things happen. All those runs with two outs was a great job by our guys.”
But this is one game, the coach reminded the team. The biggest contest of the season is the next one. Tracy will start Michigan-bound ace Cody Bolton in Game 2 opposite Lamb, who has been at his best down the stretch of the season.
Tracy is still dangerous, never mind this score. The Bulldogs dethroned seven-time defending Division I South champion St. Mary’s of Stockton last week, and they own an extra-innings victory over Elk Grove in March.
“That’s a really good team over there,” coach Carlson said, pointing to Tracy. “We can’t take anything lightly. We have to elevate our game even more (Saturday).”