The clunker is ancient history now, erased, gone for good.
Six days after a flat effort that nearly derailed any and all championship hopes, Elk Grove High School received more stellar pitching, more superb defense and just enough offense to emerge as the region’s best team – again. The Thundering Herd on Friday afternoon beat Granite Bay 4-2 at Sacramento City College in Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North play to force a winner-take-all finale in the chill of Union Stadium against the same Grizzlies.
Behind a combined no-hitter by ace Ty Madrigal and utility star Dylan Carlson, the Thundering Herd won the capper 2-0 for the program’s eighth such banner since 2002, all under Jeff Carlson, the father of Dylan, a junior who earlier in the tournament beat Vacaville 3-2 with a walk-off double.
All this from an Elk Grove team that entered the season and the postseason ranked No. 1 by The Bee but hardly looked like championship material last Saturday, falling 6-0 to a Granite Bay team that looked the part of title contender.
On Friday, it was Granite Bay that was lost in thought facing a motivated opponent with a ton to prove. Every Grizzlies player and coach was concerned with the welfare of beloved teammate Scott Henrichs, an infielder who has battled mysterious pneumonia-like symptoms this spring. The junior three-sport athlete was strong enough to leave the hospital Friday afternoon to visit his teammates at Union Stadium but was too fatigued to stay for long.
Elk Grove pitcher Kevin Kyle took the loss against Granite Bay last Saturday but gained revenge in the first game Friday, tossing a complete-game five hitter, ending it with a strikeout. Brooks Day had a two-run single to give Elk Grove a 3-1 lead in the third, and Aaron Wong drove in Madrigal to make it 4-2 in the sixth.
In the nightcap, Ryan Robards scored Nick Madrigal with an RBI shot up the middle in the third, and Day’s double a moment later scored Robards, who just beat the tag at home with a slithering slide.
“That’s the football player in him, the football juke move to home plate,” Elk Grove infielder Carlos Moseley said, ribbing Robards.
Robards, a Bee All-Metro football player, said Elk Grove learned from the 6-0 loss to Granite Bay.
“It made us realize we can’t play like that,” he said. “Then we had to see if we could live up to the pressure or crumble. We handled it pretty well. Ty was great, and so was Dylan. Both came up big.”
Dylan Carlson was eager to have the ball in the second game, and he got it. His outing, coupled with Madrigal’s start, capped a sterling last few games of superb pitching for the Thundering Herd. On Thursday, Elk Grove eliminated top-seeded Oak Ridge 8-3 on a complete game by Chris Martin, who regained some of his 2014 All-Metro form.
With all of these inspired arms, the section’s best defense, anchored by shortstop Nick Madrigal, and the offense, Elk Grove bounds into next weekend’s best-of-three section championship series on a high note.
The Herd (22-10) plays South champion St. Mary’s of Stockton (21-11) in Game 1 on Friday night at Sac City. It figures to be warmer then – blankets, hoods, hot coffee not needed – unlike throughout this tournament. And warm temperatures seem fitting since Elk Grove comes in red hot.
Jeff Carlson was ecstatic, telling the players how proud he was of them.
“Ty was nails, and he can dominate, and Dylan did a great job,” the coach said of his pitchers. “We were able to come back (from the 6-0 loss last week). The key was we had key hits from a lot of people, and we threw strikes. And we have the best infield defense we’ve ever had here, bar none.”
Granite Bay (19-13) emerged as the upstarts of this event as coach Pat Esposito kept the team together after a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season could have spelled disaster. Behind pitchers such as Darren Nelson, Nick Frank and Ryan Brown, the Grizzlies eliminated Pleasant Grove 4-1 and Jesuit 5-4, then beat Elk Grove 6-0 and thrust Oak Ridge into the losers’ bracket with a 6-0 victory.
Other key players for Granite Bay included Ryan Ingersoll, Jordan Vujovich, Matt McCord, Michael Birch, Pete Schofield, Cedric Johnson and Brett Munkdale.
Sac-Joaquin Section Divison I North
ELK GROVE 2, GRANITE BAY 0
Granite Bay 000 000 0 - 0 0 0
Elk Grove 002 000 x - 2 7 0
T. Madrigal (Carlson (5) and Gastelum. Brown, Baranowski (3) and Birch. Top hitters: EG-Moseley 2x3.
ELK GROVE 4, GRANITE BAY 2
Granite Bay 100 010 0 - 2 5 2
Elk Grove 003 000 x - 4 5 0
Frank, Steindorf (3) and Birch. Kyle and Gastellum. Top hitters: GB-T.Madrigal 2x3, 2 2B; N.Madrigal 2B.