Chris Martin did a lot of watching this high school baseball season, and it pained him.
He’s used to pitching, firing fastballs, making a difference.
Sidelined for a good portion of the campaign because of tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, Martin regained some of his 2014 All-Metro form just when his Elk Grove Thundering Herd baseball mates had to have it. The senior left-hander tossed a complete-game five-hitter, overcoming an early home run, and Elk Grove eliminated top-seeded Oak Ridge 8-3 on Thursday night in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North losers’ bracket finale at wind-whipped Sacramento City College.
“When I went on the DL, I was disappointed, down, but I knew these guys would still win and I was there supporting them,” Martin said. “It’s great to be back, to pitch like this, and I have a great team around me.”
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Jake Hathaway tagged Martin for a two-run homer to left for a 2-0 lead in the second inning for Oak Ridge (25-6), but Martin didn’t waver, didn’t buckle. He got better. Besides, Martin said, home runs happen in this game. It’s how one responds that counts.
“The guys picked me up, and I let it fuel my fire,” Martin said.
In a meeting of The Bee’s top ranked teams all spring, Elk Grove (20-10) knocked off another Division I college-bound pitcher to return to the North final, seeking the program’s eighth such championship since 2002, all under coach Jeff Carlson.
After losing to Granite Bay 6-0 on Saturday, Elk Grove bounced Vintage and Cal-bound ace Aaron Shortridge 7-0. This time, it was Fresno State-bound Ryan Sullivan that Elk Grove solved, though Sullivan twice got out of bases-loaded jams with strikeouts. But the Herd won the overall battle with constant threats as the offense continues to surge.
Dylan Carlson had three hits and twin brothers Nick and Ty Madrigal two each for the Thundering Herd. Ty Madrigal had an RBI double, and Aaron Wong’s two-run double in the seventh inning gave Elk Grove a 6-3 lead. Ryan Robards and Brooks Day each had RBIs for the Herd.
Elk Grove must beat Granite Bay, unbeaten in this field this season, twice today to win the title. The first pitch at Union Stadium is 4 p.m. with the “if” game to follow.
Coach Carlson said he has all sorts of pitching possibilities to consider for the Granite Bay rematch, including Kevin Kyle and son Dylan, who led the cheer-parade with his enthusiastic play, including a triple. Dylan Carlson has also played superb defense at first base, as have infield mates Day at third, Carlos Moseley at second and Nick Madrigal at short.
Coach Carlson was pleased with his teams grit, especially the hard-luck Martin.
“He did a great job keeping (Oak Ridge) off balance,” he said. “He did what we though he could do. It’s been a tough year for him. He wanted the ball and did a great job.
“Now we have a chance.”
Oak Ridge bows out disappointed that it didn’t reach the final after producing its best D-I campaign. Coach Todd Melton has heaped praise on his team all season for their effort and class, including leaders such as Chris Roppolo, Tyson Solis, Logan Denholm and others.