SACRAMENTO — And then there were three.
Suffering through a seven-run Franklin seventh inning, Davis High was eliminated from the Sac-Joaquin North Section baseball playoffs, 12-3, Monday night at Union Stadium.
It was a good run for the Delta Valley Conference champions, but losing on Saturday to Pleasant Grove, then to the league-rival Wildcats wasn’t what Blue Devil Nation had in mind.
“We had a great year,” DHS coach Dan Ariola said afterward, but couldn’t help but think of the way this one ended. “It was disappointing to go out of the tournament like that. You know, we’re right in the game (in the sixth), trailing only 5-3. These are the games we win.”
Ariola told his team to keep their “heads high” while praising the senior players for “great careers.”
“For (the seniors) to have back-to-back years like they did (47-16) … impressive,” the skipper added.
The result leaves only Franklin, Elk Grove and Pleasant Grove standing in the formerly 12-team tournament.
Monday began with Franklin drawing first blood when Hank LoForte scored on a first-inning sacrifice fly by Tyler Blake.
But things turned momentarily promising for the Devils …
Matt Trask’s booming double to left was followed by Hayden Duer’s RBI single. With the scored now tied, Duer came home on LoForte’s miscue.
Davis made it 3-1 in the third inning as Brett Bloomfield reached on another Franklin error and went to third when Bobby Young was safe on yet another error. Though Trask’s grounder initially looked like an inning-ending double play, an errant throw after a force of Young allowed Bloomfield to score.
Despite four Wildcat base runners in the next two innings, local starting pitcher Adam Inouye kept Franklin from scoring.
However, the DVC’s third-place team bared its teeth in the fourth: a Sean Nicholson single, a Blue Devil error and Nick Frei’s two-run double tied the score at 3-3.
Remember, the ‘Cats (18-13) were the Sac-Joaquin North Division winner a year ago. Their two-run fourth inning would be a hint of things to come, especially as it related to Frei.
When Inouye got into a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth, reliever Jake Miille came on to douse the fire.
Miille induced Jacob Buckhalter to bounce into a double play (Gabe Abiela scoring), then fanned Nicholson. Damage minimized, but Franklin led for good.
With Wildcats’ ace Connor Adams (8-2) growing stronger, DHS fans did not yet know that Chris Daunt’s fourth-inning single would be the last Blue Devil hit of 2013.
Frei, who finished 3-for-4 with five runs batted in, homered in the sixth before the seventh inning saw Franklin collect seven of its 15 hits in scoring those hope-ending seven runs against three Devil pitchers.
“Franklin did a good job,” Ariola told The Enterprise. “They hit the ball. No doubt about that. It seemed like everything was getting through.”
Especially when it was off the bat of Frei.
The Wildcat catcher’s two-run single highlighted the seventh and he could have been 4-for-4 but his blooper (which fell in front of right-fielder Daunt) was alertly turned into a 9-6 force when Peyton Simmons found himself in No-Man’s Land.
The sloppily played game — Davis (four) and Franklin combined for seven errors — marked the first time this spring that the Wildcats had taken one from the Blue Devils. The locals swept the three-game DVC series in a trio of close decisions.
“It’s tough,” Ariola reflected, his team collecting their gear, well-wishers waiting in the parking lot as lights dimmed at the Sacramento City College facility …
“All year you’re talking about the next practice or your next game. Then suddenly there’s nothing to talk about.”
Notes: In addition to Trask, Daunt and Duer, Davis’ other three hits came from Bloomfield, Ryan Kreidler (who also scored) and Trey Golston. … Inouye (4-1) took the loss while winner Adams went 6 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking but one. … The seven-run inning was the biggest opponent outburst of the season against the Devils. … Both teams turned two double plays apiece. … Ariola says most of the underclassmen will play summer tournaments with the Devil squad while many of his seniors head to American Legion Post 77 (which starts in Chico on Memorial Day weekend). ….. Franklin will play another elimination game on Thursday, facing the loser of Tuesday’s Elk Grove-Pleasant Grove winners’ bracket contest.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.