Blue Devils

It hasn’t been THAT long since DHS played ball

By March 26, 2011

The last time Davis High played baseball, Nixon was president. The Spruce Goose flew in Long Beach Harbor. The Pittsburgh Pirates …

What? It hasn’t been THAT long? Try telling that to coach Dan Ariola and the rest of his Blue Devil team.

Thanks to constant rain, DHS hasn’t taken the field since a March 17 victory at Napa. Davis (4-1) won’t be back in action until Tuesday when it meets Jesuit (2-2) at Raley Field.

“The biggest challenge is for the players to stay positive,” Ariola says of the now 10-day layoff. “But we’ve done that. We’ve stayed positive. … I’m proud of the team.

“I never say anything negative about the weather. We always want to go out there and have a positive practice day. Let the other teams complain and get upset and not be productive.

“This rain hurts everybody, really. We just need to be on the field, playing.”

Ariola — sitting in the gymnasium while it poured rain outside Saturday morning — thinks for a second, then adds: “But if this rain keeps up, I don’t know how long I can stay positive.”

Meanwhile, the Devils sandwiched a game of Wiffle Ball between loosening up at Ron & Mary Brown Stadium and throwing indoors. The mood of the club was upbeat, but the players are ready for some sunshine.

Once the coach is reminded how strong his pitching staff is, he just might stay positive deep into the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

When they finally take the field against the Marauders (6:30 p.m.), the Blue Devils will toss Ben Eckels — he of the five-inning no-hit performance in a loss at Yuba City, now more than two weeks ago. It’s the last time the junior right-hander has thrown a pitch to a different-colored uniform.

“This rain set us back as far as pitch counts,” Ariola says. “We’ll let Eckels throw 70 to 75 Tuesday. But that count has plateaued. That’s where we were with him at Yuba City.”

Ariola admits his staff could have as many as six quality arms, and he said earlier he won’t be afraid to go deep into his bullpen, when necessary.

“Ben’s been dominating. We kind of expected it, but it’s huge what he has done, and can do, for us,” praised Ariola, in his 16th year as skipper.

Thanks to the rain, a washed-out game with Pleasant Grove will be rescheduled for the last week of the regular season. Jesuit-Davis was originally to take place on March 18.

This week, after the Raley Field outing, 4-2-1 Vintage comes to town Wednesday (4 p.m.) and Delta Valley Conference play starts when the Devils host Grant (2-4) on Friday (4:15 p.m.).

Jack Shelledy, another junior, is expected to pitch against the Crushers, while senior Alec Miramontes takes the mound against the Pacers.

The Devils have managed to get some batting practice (thanks to a couple of cages with cement flooring) in the past 10 days, but only once — Tuesday — did DHS get on its field.

“We got about 10 good innings in,” Ariola said. “And our one bullpen has been OK … so the pitchers are getting work.”

Ariola said the lack of games hurts the hitters more than the pitchers, explaining that batters need to see live pitching to hone their strokes.

So, in five games, have there been any surprises for DHS?

“I don’t know if he’s a surprise, but Reinert (Toft) has been able to give us quality appearances,” Ariola continues.

Toft, a lefty, threw three shut-down innings in a 5-4 win over Sheldon, then held Vintage for five innings of relief while Davis ralled for a 7-5 victory.

“And George Hatamiya is off to a good start. I’m really happy about George. He’s played six positions in the last two games, too,” Ariola said.

Notes: Grant went 6-10 in the Metro League in 2010 (7-17 overall). Pacer Tyler Sabatke returns to coaching after Danny Chavez held the reins last season. It’s Sabatke’s fifth season. … Ariola says Elk Grove and Franklin are the Devils’ main rivals. “If you want to win a league championship, the Elk Grove games will do that for you.” He admits that playing Jesuit and Pleasant Grove (where DHS grad and former Ariola teammate Rob Rinaldi coaches) always gets the Blue blood flowing a little more rapidly. … From the Say What? Dept.: Assistant baseball coach Marc Hicks, who once carried the football for Ohio State, was wearing a Kentucky hoodie Saturday at practice. Didn’t the Wildcats just knock the Buckeyes out of the NCAA Big Dance on Friday? “Mike Brown (another former Blue Devil who went on to play at Kentucky) sent it to me,” Hicks said. Hmmmmm.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047.

Bruce Gallaudet

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