STOCKTON — Fairy-tale endings usually involve a prince.
Such was the case for Davis High on Saturday as Kris Prince pitched a four-hit complete game, earning the Blue Devils a 3-2 victory over St. Mary’s and the school’s third Sac-Joaquin Section baseball title.
The win came after the Rams evened the three-game D-I championship series with a 1-0 decision in the early Saturday game. DHS, behind ace Matt Trask, beat St. Mary’s, 7-4, on Friday.
Fans will recall it was Prince who beat Elk Grove, 5-2, on May 23 to send the Devils into this best-of-three, see-saw battle at Klein Family Field on the campus of University of the Pacific.
For the junior righty Prince, those two games were his only two starts of 2014.
“Has this happened in my wildest dreams?” Prince repeated a question. “Yeah. But I’m just glad it came true.”
After local hurler Brett Bloomfield was unlucky in losing his complete-game, five-hit bid in the opener, Davis greeted Ram starter Evan Fagundes with a four-hit, three-run first inning in the nightcap.
John Ariola opened with a single to left, Bloomfield blasted a triple over outfielder Jarron Silva’s head in center and Ryan Kreidler laced an RBI hit.
Kreidler then stole second, forced an error and wound up on third. Trey Golston’s fielder’s choice plated the red-hot Kreidler (who finished the season hitting .440).
Little did the crowd know at that point, but the Blue Devils were through on offense.
Fagundes collected himself and allowed only two hits the rest of the way.
And with DHS pitchers Trask (six innings on Friday) and Bloomfield spent, all the pressure fell on Prince.
St. Mary’s tallied twice in the third (thanks to run-scoring hits by Ripken Reyes and Scot Michaels). Prince had to wriggle out of a two-on, nobody-out jam in the fourth and a slick fielding play by Golston turned a potential Ram rally into a 5-to-3 inning-ending double play. It was the Rams’ last look at the game.
From there, Prince (3-0) retired the final six hitters in order.
“Kris was unbelievable,” said Devil pitching coach Marc Kenner. “Unbelievable in that he didn’t have his best stuff and he kept after it, kept fighting and would not give in.”
Kenner himself played a huge role in Davis’ title march. Not only was his staff magnificent in wading through powers like Granite Bay, Vacaville, Elk Grove and finally four-time champion St. Mary’s — but the 1993 DHS graduate ran the show for two-plus games after Blue Devil skipper Dan Ariola was thrown out of two playoff contests (afterward serving two, one-game suspensions).
“I give my players and my coaches all the credit,” Ariola told The Enterprise in the midst of a half-hour, on-field celebration. “They did it all exactly right. Marc Kenner? Unbelievable.”
Kenner praised Bloomfield: “He pitched the best game of three, and we lost it. Bloomie was going back out in the eighth if we had tied it up.”
Oh yeah, that …
In the first game on Saturday, it looked like Davis would not give Prince a chance to be well, a prince.
Down 1-0 with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Drew Gnos, Bloomfield and Kreidler packed the bases, with cleanup hitter Trask and the reliable Golston due up. Reliever Stefan Giovannoni surely remembered Friday’s bases-loaded double by Trask, the big hit that keyed the deciding six-run third inning.
Trask, locked and loaded, put a couple of breeze-creating swings on pitches before fanning.
Golston then gave the crowd of almost 1,000 a start when he mashed a Giovannoni offering high off the left-field fence, but 10 feet foul. The Rams closer went on to strike out Golston and the rubber game was afoot.
Sophomore shortstop Kreidler looked back on the Devils’ 22-13-1 season; a year in which DHS finished second in the Delta Valley Conference standings:
“We’ve had to handle so much adversity from the start of the season to the Elk Grove games to the playoffs,” he said. “This team is so resilient. We’re like a family. A lot of teams say that, but I think this is one of the only teams that believes that.
“We all love each other, we all hang out on the weekends. It’s a pretty special group.”
“This team is like my second family. It’s kind of sad the seniors are leaving, but we’ll see them around. Just a great group of guys. Every single one of these guys works their butt off — and we did it.”
St. Mary’s, which had won three straight Sac-Joaquin pennants before losing to Elk Grove last spring, was dug in at Klein Family Field. When facing elimination, it had won its previous nine games at the Pacific facility.
Then there’s the story about the handful of Davis players who have been on teams together since third grade …
One of them, senior catcher Hudson Forrester, summed up their collective feelings when asked what his brethren meant to him:
“So much. I’ve been playing with them all my life. There’s so many memories with all these guys. It’s emotional, but amazing to be with them. It’s so fun to win with them. It’s a great way to end my senior year.”
Fairy tales do come true. At least this bunch of Blue Devils will live happily ever after.
Notes: DHS also won section titles in 2000 and 2004. … Ariola tipped his cap to St. Mary’s, a squad that finished 21-15. The Rams were the Tri-City Athletic League runners-up to Tokay. Until the series with the Devils, SMHS had beaten its last three opponents by a combined 36-0. … Poor Hudson Forrester. Twenty-one innings behind the plate in 24 hours. “Never done that. That’s a lot … I’m definitely going to be taking an ice bath.” … Trask is headed for UCLA, unless lightning strikes in Thursday’s MLB draft. Arguably the best all-around senior in the Sacramento region, pitcher Trask finished 6-1 with a 1.51 ERA, while hitter Trask checked in at .351. … It marked the last game together for father-son combo Dan and John Ariola. Ariola The Younger was brilliant in center field all year, and continued by making countless all-star catches during the three-game title series. John (who hit .397) is headed to Cosumnes River College to play for Brett Bloomfield’s dad, Tony. … Dan Ariola promised the media he would return for his 20th season. “I’ve been on these fields as a player, coach and manager for 40 years,” he explained while hinting at how hard that day will be when he does hang ‘em up.