Coronation (noun): a ceremony in which a crown is placed on the head of a new king, queen or other sovereign.
How about a prince?
Friday night’s Sac Joaquin Section Division I North championship matchup was a coronation for an unheralded junior pitcher named Kris Prince.
In his first ever varsity start, Prince looked like royalty, throwing a complete game five-hitter and ruling over the mighty Elk Grove lineup, holding the Thundering Herd to a mere two runs en route to a 5-2 victory at Sacramento City College’s Union Stadium.
After dropping Friday’s opener — their first loss of the tournament — the Blue Devils captured the North section title behind Prince in Game 2.
“I was just hitting my spots, I was really confident on the mound and I had good offense behind me,” Prince said. “It was just a great game — best game I’ve ever pitched — first start of the whole year, I think that’s pretty good.”
The win puts DHS in a three-game series against SJS South winner St. Mary’s for the section title. The set opens Friday with a 4 p.m. outing at Pacific’s Klein Family Stadium.
The road to Stockton hit a major bump on Friday as EGHS posted a 3-2 triumph in Game 1. Brett Bloomfield, the locals’ No. 2 pitcher, took the loss despite only giving up three runs.
After failing to cash in on several scoring opportunities, the Devils looked defeated between games while the confident Herd players seemed ready to grab the championship. However, a team meeting before the second contest had Davis raring to go.
“Basically what we told them, ‘Why not?’ ” said Blue Devil pitching coach Marc Kenner.
Elk Grove had Cody Barnes on the hill for Game 2, its No. 4 pitcher but one who threw nine shutout innings against Franklin just two weeks ago.
DHS, which had been searching for that elusive third starter for the entire season, countered with Prince. The right-hander had a mere eight appearances, one win and a 3.93 ERA. Now, he would be up against a Herd lineup that hits .326 collectively and is led by the Delta Valley Conference MVP and MLB draft prospect Derek Hill.
But the Devils got Prince an early advantage, loading the bases with no outs but settling for one run as John Ariola scored when Matt Trask’s grounded into a double play.
And after that, it was The Kris Prince Show.
Prince’s best pitch — his slider — baffled the fearsome EGHS lineup.
“That’s always been my best pitch ever since I was 12,” Prince said. “It was on (Friday) and I could locate it, and it feels good that I threw it really well.”
And Prince was also able to use that pitch to strike out Hill, describing it as “the best feeling I’ve ever had, because I know he’s going to get drafted.”
Both teams went quiet after the first inning, and remained that way until the bottom of the fifth.
With two outs and a man on third, Herd No. 9 hitter Landon Gastelum stepped to the plate. With the count at 2-2, Prince threw a slider that was very close to clipping the edge of the plate. The umpire called it a ball, however, and Gastelum took Prince’s next pitch into left field, bringing home Carlos Moseley and making Davis head coach Dan Ariola livid.
“That’s your run!” Ariola yelled at the umpire from the dugout.
And with that, Ariola was ejected from the game to cheers from the Elk Grove crowd, leaving Kenner to take over the Blue Devil helm for the third time in the playoffs. (Ariola was tossed from DHS’ opening win over Granite Bay and had to sit out the next contest, another victory).
Once again, the ejection lit a fire under the Devil lineup.
Davis used a Ryan Kriedler single and two hit-by-pitches to load the bases for Nate Curtis with no outs. Curtis hit a sharp grounder and the Herd failed to turn the double play only nabbing Trey Golston as Kreidler scored from third.
After the Herd intentionally walked Quentin McCray to load the bases once again, senior catcher Hudson Forrester hit a dribbler to the pitcher, now EGHS ace Chris Martin. Indecisiveness caused Martin to bobble the routine play, allowing Jeremy Likes — who was pinch running for Trask — to come home and extend the Blue Devil lead to 3-1.
The sloppy play was contagious as DHS made some mental errors on defense in the sixth to let the Thundering Herd close the gap to 3-2.
However, the Devils got that run back, and then some in the top of the seventh.
After John Ariola flew out to center, Bloomfield slapped a single into right field and into the batter’s box stepped Kreidler, Davis’ leading hitter.
“I was just looking for a fastball,” Kreidler said.
The sophomore got what he was looking for — and blasted a deep line drive to the warning track that not even the speedy Hill could track down. Kreidler went in standing to second base, while Bloomfield showed off his own speed, scoring from first.
And Kreidler wasn’t done as he stole third, then scored on an ensuing wild pitch to give the locals a comfortable 5-2 lead.
“We never sit back, with a team like Elk Grove you really can’t,” Kreidler said. “We came out with a lot of intensity in the second game, and played our butts off.”
And in the bottom of the seventh, Prince came out to finish what he started.
“(Kris) came to me after the end of the sixth and said, ‘There’s no way you’re taking me out of this game,’ ” Kenner explained. “His pitch count was just above 70 and I said, ‘Fine.’ That’s the kind of kid you want, you want him to want the ball.”
After a leadoff walk, Prince struck out the next two batters looking with his signature slider. And when Nick Madrigal lined out to end the game, the Blue Devils formed a mob around the victorious Prince.
“The kids played great, they fought, they clawed, they stayed aggressive,” Kenner said. “Instead of waiting and sitting back and playing not to lose, we played to win.”
Bloomfield, a senior, added: “It feels awesome man, it feels great to do it, especially with this group of guys. It’s almost as if we didn’t think it was going to happen, but as soon as we beat Franklin (14-6 on Tuesday) we were like, ‘Lets just do this, right now.’ ”
Notes: EGHS was the defending tournament champion and, with Franklin’s 2012 win, the DVC has taken the title for three straight seasons. … Even though the rivalry between Davis and Elk Grove can get heated, off the field there was nothing but respect between the two teams. Matt Trask and his father Mike exchanged pleasantries with Herd manager Jeff Carlson after the game and the younger Trask posed for pictures with Hill. Both players are expected to be drafted by MLB teams in July.