“I was supposed to put down a bunt, but I thought, ‘I should swing through,’ … I thought it was right,” said Davis High junior Jared McNece, whose Blue Devil teammates are thankful that he decided to take a hack.
McNece’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning sent DHS past Granite Bay, 2-1, in both teams’ Sac-Joaquin Section playoff opener. The Devils’ home win sets up a second-round matchup with Vacaville on Thursday (4 p.m.) at Sacramento City College.
The first two rounds of the SJS tournament are single elimination.
“(These guys are) scrappers,” said Davis pitching coach Marc Kenner, who took over after skipper Dan Ariola was ejected in the third inning for arguing a strike call.
“I think we had lost three in a row coming into this game, and they were still confident and ready to play. They didn’t get overwhelmed when we went down by one run. Great kids, great senior group, they’re probably the most talented kids we got.”
After a pitchers duel worthy of the two MLB prospects on the mound — Blue Devil ace Matt Trask and Grizzly flame-thrower Mitch Hart each went seven strong innings — DHS made the most of a scoring opportunity in the ninth.
Senior Trey Golston led off the frame by blasting a 2-1 pitch into deep left-center field for a double. A visibly fired up Golston slid into second and stood up, flashing Johnny Manziel’s signature “Money” celebration.
And “money” is the perfect way to describe what happened next. Junior Nate Curtis laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Golston to third and, after Granite Bay intentionally walked Quentin McCray, McNece stepped up and won it with a bouncing ball up the middle.
“The kids played hard, they played pitch-by-pitch, and they didn’t get nervous in the extended innings,” Kenner said. “They just played really hard.”
After a scoreless first two frames, Grizzly Vinny Esposito opened the top of the third by slapping a ball into shallow right field. When the ball slipped under the glove of a diving McCray, Esposito ended up at third with a triple.
The next Granite Bay hitter, Zach Hall, gave his team a 1-0 lead with a quick flip of a bat. Little did the Grizzlies know, it was the last run they would get off of Trask and reliever Brett Bloomfield, who earned the win with two shutout innings.
Later in the third, Hart injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder after swinging at one of Trask’s fastballs. The 6-foot-3 hurler was in a lot of pain, reportedly separating his shoulder.
But the injury didn’t affect his ability to pitch. Like Trask, Hart gave up just one run in seven innings of work.
“Hey, the kid pitched a heckuva game,” Kenner said. “He separated his shoulder swinging and he was still able to gut it out and pitch seven innings. We fought to get that one run off of him and we were fortunate.”
Before getting the tying run, a mistake in the bottom of the third inning cost the Devils one of their best chances to score.
Just moments after Ariola was ejected, Davis had two runners in scoring position and sophomore slugger Ryan Kreidler at the plate.
However, in a moment of pure shock, Blue Devil Drew Gnos took off from third base during Hart’s wind-up in an attempt to steal home. GBHS catcher Jordan Vujovich tagged out Gnos to end the threat without Kreidler and his .418 average getting to finish his at-bat.
“It was partly because I didn’t know the signs and I screwed it up,” Kenner said. “It was my fault; I should’ve let Ryan hit. I had timed (Hart), I thought there was plenty of time. Drew thought he was safe, but it was my fault.”
But DHS made up for the mishap in the bottom in the sixth as John Ariola led off by taking one for the team. Two well-executed sacrifices moved him to third and Trask helped himself with an RBI single to right field.
Notes: Trask scattered eight hits and struck out three, while Hart fanned six and allowed five hits. … Dan Ariola will not be allowed to coach Thursday’s game. … Kenner said the Devils will have all of their arms except Trask available against Vacaville — including Bloomfield.
— Reach Thomas Oide at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterThomas