After dropping a close matchup at Franklin on Tuesday, Davis High missed out on a chance to stand alone in first place in the Delta Valley Conference.
Getting a rematch Thursday — the third meeting between the two teams that split the first two — the Blue Devils weren’t going to let the Wildcats win the season series. Not in their house.
Thanks to a long-overdue offensive explosion, DHS defeated the Wildcats, 8-5, to join Elk Grove at the top of the league standings.
The Devils (8-4-1) and Herd are both 5-2 in DVC play, but the locals have a win over EGHS earlier this season.
To achieve that record, Davis got a performance from star pitcher Matt Trask that was reminiscent of the famous Michael Jordan “Flu Game.” Trask, who is set to pitch at UCLA next season, has been suffering from strep throat all week, but battled through the illness and tossed five solid innings, giving up only two runs to the Wildcats (9-5, 4-3).
After Cal State Fullerton-bound FHS shortstop Hank LoForte opened the game by reaching on an error — then took second on a wild pitch and third when Gabe Abelia laid down a perfect bunt and Abelia reached safely — Trask came alive with runners at the corners and no outs yet recorded.
First, Blue Devil catcher Hudson Forrester threw a laser to shortstop Ryan Kreidler to catch Abelia stealing. And after Trey Golston threw out the following batter at first, Trask blew three of his 92-mph fastballs past a helpless Jordan Estes to get out of the jam.
And just two innings later in the third, Trask prevented the Wildcats from breaking a 2-2 tie by striking out two batters with the bases loaded.
“Matt wasn’t feeling good (Thursday) and we didn’t help him defensively,” said DHS head coach Dan Ariola. “For him to give us five strong innings, and getting us out of some of those jams … that’s what won the game for us.”
Dan’s son John Ariola, a senior, added: “Matt pitched great. He was sick, he’s been sick all week, but he gutted through it. He’s our guy, we stick with him; he’s great.”
Speaking of the younger Ariola, the senior was a key piece in the Devils’ big offensive performance, which included a five-run fifth inning that broke the game open.
Nursing a 3-2 lead entering the decisive frame, and knowing that the other two games against Franklin had been decided by two runs or less, Davis got some key insurance runs.
Ariola led off the inning by slapping a double to left-center field, his second two-bagger of the afternoon. After Brett Bloomfield flew out to right, Kreidler battled his way out of an 0-2 hole and hit a single just over the third baseman’s outstretched glove.
The offensive execution didn’t stop there. Trask and Kreidler performed a perfectly timed hit-and-run to move the sophomore shortstop to third, and Kreidler scored on Golston’s double down the third-base line.
When it was over, the Blue Devils had batted around, posted five hits and scored five runs in the frame. The scariest part, though: Dan Ariola said DHS had just a “decent” day offensively.
“Decent, decent job (Thursday),” the skipper said of his team’s hitting. “We got a couple bunts down (Thursday), (Franklin) had to make some plays. We had some really effective hit-and-runs. We had a lot of good at-bats (Thursday). Everybody in our lineup contributed.”
Notes: The Devils now hold a key tiebreaker over the Wildcats in the DVC standings. … The conference boasts four of the top teams in the section, according to area reporter Joe Davidson. In his most recent power rankings, Davidson had Davis on top, Franklin in second, Elk Grove at third and Grant (4-3) in fourth. The four squads are in a dogfight for only three Sac-Joaquin Section playoff spots available to the league. … Golston aggravated a toe injury on Thursday. According to his dad Carl, Trey had problems with the pitching mound at Elk Grove’s field, which led to a bruised toe.