Joe Davidson

Prep baseball: Upstart Granite Bay beats Oak Ridge in D-I

The third time wasn’t the charm, as the saying goes, but the fourth time?

Golden good charm.

In a meeting of Sierra Foothill League rivals, upstart Granite Bay High School finally toppled top-seeded Oak Ridge, soaking in a 6-0 victory Tuesday night at Sacramento City College in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North playoffs.

Oak Ridge, in a three-game set in April, beat the Grizzlies 8-1, 2-1 and 7-3, rolling to the league championship. Granite Bay craved a rematch and was up to the task, playing loose, yet inspired in moving to 4-0 in these playoffs, all marked by terrific pitching, sound defense and plenty of offense.

Darren Nelson is 2-0 in the postseason, having eliminated Pleasant Grove 4-1 and then limiting Oak Ridge to five hits as the Trojans were shut out for the first time this spring.

The 6-foot-5 sophomore, also a basketball star, struck out eight and walked two in moving to 6-2 on the season. Once he found his baseball legs after a long basketball season, Nelson has cruised, dialing up complete-game gems to beat Woodcreek on a one-hitter, Rocklin on a one-hitter, Pleasant Grove on a two-hitter and then this game.

“Darren Nelson, wow,” Granite Bay coach Pat Esposito said, exhaling for extra effect. “He’s been great.”

The whole team has in winning 15 of 17 games, putting its 2-5 start so far in the rear-view mirror that no one in black and green can remember.

“We’re hitting on all cylinders,” Esposito said. “It’s been fun.”

Fun, with more work to do. The Grizzlies can’t rest now, not with Oak Ridge and Elk Grove still alive in the losers’ bracket and sensing urgency. Those teams play Thursday in an elimination game, the winner then needing to beat Granite Bay twice Friday at Union Stadium to take the title.

So continues an amazing spring of athletic success for the Placer County school with golf and boys and girls swimming having just won section team titles.

Nick Frank opened the scoring for Granite Bay (19-11) against Oak Ridge (25-5) with a third-inning RBI, and Brett Munkdale made it 2-0 in the fourth when Michael Birch scored on an error. Oak Ridge loaded the bases in the fifth, but Nelson got out of the jam on a double-play ball.

Birch’s two-run double down the left-field line gave the Grizzlies a 5-0 lead in the sixth.

Ryan Ingersoll had three hits for Granite Bay, five players collected hits and Birch scored twice.

“We’re playing great,” Nelson said. “And we’re having fun.”

Division I

GRANITE BAY 6, OAK RIDGE 0

Granite Bay 001 104 0 - 6 7 1

Oak Ridge 000 000 0 - 0 5 1

Nelson and Birch. Lucke, Boggin (6), Cunningham (7) and Hathaway. Top hitters: GB-Ingersoll 3x4; Birch 2B, 2 RBIs; Frank 2B. OR-Mook 2x2.

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