By now, area baseball fans know the road to the Delta Valley Conference championship usually runs from Davis to Elk Grove and back again.
Thanks to Tuesday’s important 13-3 home victory over a mistake-prone Grant High, it looks to most observers like that road will again be heavily traveled early next month.
After a Thursday contest at Grant, mediocre Laguna Creek (10-10) and woeful Monterey Trail (1-19) present four DHS mini-hurdles on the way to a probable DVC title-deciding two-game set between the Thundering Herd and Blue Devils on May 5-6.
Elk Grove (13-4) and DHS (10-8-1) stand tied atop the DVC at 6-2. Franklin (13-6, 5-3) has two games left with The Herd and the Pacers (11-7, 4-4) need to play better ball — by their coach’s own admission — to secure one of three postseason bids out of this tough league.
Back to Tuesday’s outing …
The Devils snapped a three-game losing streak when outfielder Jared McNece smacked a two-run single over the head of Grant’s left fielder. The blast plated Ryan Kreidler and Nate Curtis — invoking the mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth.
“The guys competed (Tuesday),” Davis skipper Dan Ariola said afterward. “The win was huge for us. To get their No. 1 guy (Cameron Avila-Leeper) … He’s got unbelievable stuff: He throws hard, he’s got a nasty curve ball.”
Apparently too nasty on this day.
Lefty Avila-Leeper lasted only 2 1/3 innings, throwing 86 pitches while coughing up six hits. But for the senior and his 90 mph fastball, the story was control — and shaky defense behind him.
Avila-Leeper — with several pro scouts again in the stands to judge him and Blue Devil starter Matt Trask — allowed five early runs (despite striking out four in the first inning).
He then went on to allow five more in a six-run third as a Pacer throwing error brought home three DHS runs on one play.
Avila-Leeper fanned five, but walked four, threw three wild pitches and was victimized by four passed balls.
“He’s tough to catch, too,” Ariola deadpanned.
Meanwhile, Trask (2-1, 1.35 earned run average) pitched a complete game — his only hit allowed was a lead-off double to Chris Attebury in the second inning. The first hitters in the second, third and fourth frames scored for the Pacers. Each run was earned.
McNece’s coup d’grace was set up when Kreidler opened the fifth with a line single to left. Drew Gnos (2-for-3 with three RBIs and a run scored) reached on a fielder’s choice just before Curtis earned the eighth of nine Devil walks to load the bases.
A Keystone Cops-type pick-off, in which Curtis was trapped off first, ended up with Gnos eventually tagged out by the first baseman near third.
But a walk to Quentin McCray loaded the bases again, just before McNece delivered.
“It was nice that Jared had that big hit,” said Ariola, who added that he kept his bullpen rested and Trask’s pitch count down. “(McNece) has been producing for us. I’m real happy for him.”
McCray was 2-for-4 with an RBI and run and Curtis reached base four times, finishing 2-for-2 with three runs scored. Brett Bloomfield finished 2-for-3, scoring twice and driving in a run. Kreidler (1-for-3) also scored three times.
Next up is the Thursday (4:15 p.m.) rematch with the Pacers. Bloomfield (2-2, 2.93) goes against Polo Portela (3-2, 2.02). Portela threw a four-hitter in a 3-0 win over the Devils on March 28.
Notes: Hitting just .263 as a team, the locals are paced at the plate by Kreidler’s .396 average. Trask at .389, John Ariola (.333) and Bloomfield (.314) are the other Davis players over .300. … Grant coach Danny Chavez — whose son Danny Jr. cleaned up on the mound after Avila-Leeper faltered — said his team needed to “elevate themselves, recover from (Tuesday).” Accentuate the positive, the elder Chavez explained: “It does no good to dwell on Tuesday’s errors.” … Jasmine Castillo sang the national anthem on Tuesday. … Both managers called the umpires to task several times in the early innings, speaking to the importance of this DVC outing. As the game got out of hand, emotions quelled.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-320-4456.