Baseball games under the lights at James Field in Auburn makes for an energized atmosphere.
Night games are a rarity in the region, so a venue such as James Field is to be all the more admired and appreciated.
Placer High School has called the venue its baseball home for decades, and Friday contests liven up a schedule.
Placer’s “home” games at the park are otherwise held during the day. Woodland often plays under the lights at Clark Field in Yolo County, and Yuba City also plays under the lights.
Otherwise, most area teams don’t experience the light treatment until Easter tournaments, such as this week in Fresno or the Boras Classic at McAuliffe Field at Sacramento State.
Games under the lights are common in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs at American River College, Sacramento City and venues in Lodi and Stockton.
James Field resonates for Placer coaches such as Dave Thompson, who played on the field growing up, including his Hillmen time as a graduate of the school.
Public-address announcer Pete Dufour, a Placer alum, adds to the fun and flavor with music between batters and innings. Scores of Placer alums frequent the games and gobble up the tri-tip and other tasty eats.
On Friday night, No. 4 Oakmont beat No. 20 Placer 4-2 to move to 16-2 overall and 7-2 in the Foothill Valley League. T.J. Nichols improved to 5-0, and Carson Blatnick earned the save for a team that impressed all season.
“Isn’t this place awesome?” Oakmont coach Paul Martinez said before the first pitch.
Martinez, in his fifth season at Oakmont, is thinking championship — again. He won a ton as head coach at San Juan, Rosemont and Del Campo, and he’s widely regarded as one of the area’s top coaches and classy sportsmen.
Oakmont is in the 50th Easter Baseball Classic that features 38 teams, including Bee-ranked Bella Vista, Jesuit and Placer (Bradshaw Christian, Cosumnes Oaks and Sheldon are also involved).
Top-ranked Franklin, No. 3 Davis and Bay Area powers Bellarmine of San Jose and Serra of San Mateo highlight the Boras event.
Jesuit is coming off a 3-0 series sweep of Davis in Delta League action to remain in the race with Franklin.
The Boras Classic is a quasi-Northern California championship with the North Boras winner playing the South Boras winner (of SoCal teams) later this season at a venue to be determined.
There are no regional playoffs in baseball, though the CIF has discussed having NorCal and SoCal playoffs with its member schools.
Cooper Hjerpe of Woodland is on an historic tear, the Oregon State-bound senior having tossed three consecutive no-hitters, a section record and one shy of tying the state record, according to Cal-Hi Sports, which logs such cool data.
Hjerpe struck out 15 and clubbed three home runs in a five-inning 19-0 rout of Mesa Verde in Golden Empire League play. His first no-hitter of the season was against Mira Loma, an 11-0, five-inning win over Mira Loma. He struck out 15 in that game as well.
In a 1-0 win over tradition-rich Casa Roble last week, Hjerpe went the distance — seven innings — for a 14-strikeout no-hitter.
The first pitcher in state history to toss four successive no-hitters was Byron Randolph of Winters in 1963, all seven-inning games. He still has the Cal-Hi Sports record with 34 consecutive no-hit innings.
John Kukuruda of East Nicolaus tossed a Northern Section-record four straight no-hitters in 2010, three of those games going five innings. Lloyd Snook of Sacramento High in 1911 (remember him?) tossed two straight nine-inning no-hitters.
Hjerpe is scheduled to start Thursday in the Sutter Spring Classic. He’s 4-1 this season with five complete games. He has struck out 66 in 27 innings and has a 1.04 ERA for a team that has won 10 consecutive games. He’s also hitting .531 with four home runs.
From the despair of a 2-25 season in 2013 and going 6-14 a year ago, Folsom has stormed onto the scene as a rising power, punctuated by being ranked No. 1 by The Bee this week for the first time in program history.
It’s a credit to third-year coach Paige Braithwaite and her team, which includes several impact freshmen. Folsom is in the midst of just its second winning season since 2007.
Folsom on Saturday won the prestigious LeDoux Tournament in Roseville, beating new No. 2 East Nicolaus 1-0 in the semifinals and rolling previously No. 3 Rocklin 11-0 in the final.
The roster includes six freshmen, five sophomores and one senior in Bailey Pfeiler. Freshman pitcher Emma Falen has struck out 64 in 56 1/3 innings. Other key freshmen include Dakota Kennedy (.523 average, 17 RBIs), D’Auna Johnson (.326, 15 RBIs) and Reina Zermeno (.395, nine RBIs).