ELK GROVE — There will be tons on the line when the Blue Devils entertain the Thundering Herd in Tuesday’s Delta Valley Conference — and regular-season — finale at 4:15 p.m. at Davis High.
After Friday’s bad-tasting 12-2 setback at Elk Grove, the locals have some new obstacles to hurdle.
“We didn’t play well,” Devil manager Dan Ariola told The Enterprise on Saturday morning. “This group has come back many times before, including against Elk Grove last year. I told (our players) to hold their heads up.
“We are 13-1 in league. We have a championship game on our field Tuesday. What more can you ask for?”
There are a couple of things: an eligible Joe Murray, and Matt Trask being available to pitch in the title game. Neither appears likely.
The contentious game Friday got off on the wrong foot for Davis.
With one out and runners at the corners, Devil John Ariola took off for second. The situation called for the runner to take all the attention off Murray at third, maybe stealing a run.
However, the play turned into a catcher-to-short-to-first-to-catcher double play with Murray and Herd backstop Dom Nunez ending up in violent collision.
Immediately, Murray was signaled out and then ejected by the home-plate umpire for what Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson called “unnecessary contact.”
In the ensuing scrum, Nunez flipped the ball into Murray’s face and the pair exchanged pleasantries as coaches and players from both teams came onto the field.
Order quickly restored, there were no further ejections.
“The officials said (Nunez’s) actions weren’t sufficient for being thrown out,” skipper Ariola said, adding that he’s trying to show CIF that Murray’s slide was not a sanctionable play.
Because Murray was ejected, by rule, he’s out of Tuesday’s DVC showdown. Murray, the Devil second baseman, is hitting .423.
“We think he slid clean, then came up with his shoulder,” Ariola continued. ”We have pictures. I talked to the officials after the game. I have a phone call into (DHS Athletic Director Dennis Foster).
“We’re anticipating not having Joe, but we’re going to do whatever we can to have that suspension (waived).”
Ariola’s take is that a collision at the plate doesn’t always warrant a suspension.
Then there’s the fact that Trask (6-2) allowed eight runs over 3 1/3 innings — six of which were earned and dented his once-minuscule ERA (it jumped to 1.72). If available at all Tuesday, Trask could be used in short relief. Bobby Young (5-4, 2.53) is expected to get the start.
After that first inning, Davis (20-6) had another two-on, no-out opportunity, but tough-luck Ryan Kreidler lined into a double play in the second.
Two of Davis’ five errors resulted in an unearned second-inning Elk Grove run, then four hits from the bottom of The Herd’s order helped plate four earned, third-inning runs.
After DHS catcher Hayden Duer’s two-run double breathed life back into the Devils, a five-run fourth by The Grove put Davis in a deep hole.
The mercy-rule was evoked when yet another Blue Devil error — their fifth — allowed the game’s final two tallies in the bottom of the fifth.
How big is winning the conference?
Second- and third-place finishers from the four D-I leagues meet each other in Sac-Joaquin Section tourney first-round games on May 13. Those play-in games are for the right to engage the league champions on May 15 or 16. Lose either of those first two games, and a school is eliminated from competition.
If Davis loses to Elk Grove (21-4, 13-1) Tuesday, if will be a No. 2 seed, meeting the Monticello Empire’s No. 3 team a week from Monday. If the Devils win, they’ll start play May 16 at 7 p.m.
“If you have to play in, you will have to beat two schools’ No. 1 pitchers those first two games,” Ariola says. “That’s tough.”
Notes: The MEL is a mess at the top. Vacaville, which Davis beat 11-1 early this spring, leads with a 9-4 record and two games to go. One game back are Wood, Rodriguez and Vintage. …Elk Grove has split its two outings with DHS, losing 2-1 on April 12. … Duer’s two RBI brought his season total to 10. Trask (2-for-2) raised his average to .460. … Herd outfielder Derek Hill had three singles, an intentional walk and scored three times, while Elk Grove starter Dan Smith ran his record to 8-1 with a 1.22 ERA. …The Sacramento Bee last week ranked Davis No. 1 and Elk Grove No. 2 in Sac-Joaquin baseball. …The loss ended the Devils’ 13-game win streak.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.