Joe Davidson

Granite Bay, Oak Ridge roll in D-I baseball to set up SFL rematch

Third baseman, Logan Denholm, of Oak Ridge High School is greeted at the plate after hitting a home run in the Division I playoff game against Vintage at Union Stadium on May 16. Oak Ridge won 7-2.
Third baseman, Logan Denholm, of Oak Ridge High School is greeted at the plate after hitting a home run in the Division I playoff game against Vintage at Union Stadium on May 16. Oak Ridge won 7-2.

The turning point of this promising baseball season came early.

The Granite Bay Grizzlies stood a weary 5-9 after a challenging slate of games, the effort to get all hands on the same page never ending. There were meetings and a collective effort to get off the canvas and salvage the season.

The view is a nice one now.

Granite Bay is now 3-0 in the playoffs after beating Elk Grove 6-0 on Saturday afternoon in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North contest at Sacramento City College, thanks to more superb pitching, more stout defense and just enough offense.

“At the beginning of the year, we were scratching our heads, thinking, ‘What in the world?’” recalled Pat Esposito, the only varsity head coach in program history, dating to when the school opened in 1996. “A lot of this game is mental. ... People look at these guys here, and we don’t look the part, but we’re hot now.”

Granite Bay left-hander Ryan Brown tossed a complete-game four hitter to stifle Elk Grove.

The Grizzlies (18-11) look the part of sudden contender, and no one from the Delta League can argue this. Granite Bay has eliminated two Delta teams already, Pleasant Grove 4-1 on Monday and Jesuit 5-4 on Thursday. Elk Grove is now in the loser’s bracket, with play starting Monday at Union Stadium.

Granite Bay faces Sierra Foothill League rival Oak Ridge on Tuesday, thanks to the efforts of Grizzlies left-handed pitcher Ryan Brown, who tossed a complete-game four hitter to stifle the Thundering Herd (18-10). The senior struck out four and walked one in offering up mostly fast balls with some change-ups sprinkled in. Jordan Vujovich smacked a two-run triple in the top of the fifth inning to open the scoring, and Michael Birch had a two-run single to make it 4-0 in the sixth to send the Grizzlies on their way to their 13th victory in 15 outings. Brett Munkdale had a sacrifice fly RBI to make it 5-0.

“This was so much fun,” Brown said. “We’ve really come together; the chemistry is great. Teams may not think that much of us when we come out here, but we’ll kick their (butts).”

Granite Bay reached the D-I North finals in 2005, falling to Elk Grove, and it reached the D-II section finals five times, winning the event in 2001.

Elk Grove is the last Delta team standing after Vintage eliminated Franklin and Oak Ridge bounced defending champion Davis.

Oak Ridge 7, Vintage 2 – Logan Denholm crushed a three-run homer to left in the sixth, and pitchers Connor Davis and Trenton Denholm kept the prolific Crushers of Napa at bay, walking two, in the other D-I game at Sac City.

Trenton Denholm, younger brother of Logan, singled to score Jake Hathaway for a 3-2 lead in the fifth, and leadoff hitter Chris Ropollo had an RBI hit for a 4-2 lead in the sixth for the top-seeded Trojans (25-4). Vintage (23-5) plays Elk Grove on Monday, with the loser done for the season. Vintage catcher Jacob MacNichols homered to left in the first for a 1-0 lead, but the Crushers walked eight.

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