We always wait breathlessly around the Sports Desk as we play back after-game quotes from Davis High baseball coach Dan Ariola.
Our staffers know what’s coming … The use of the word “battle” comes early and often in describing his guys’ play: “We battled today.” “He was a battler all afternoon.” “I like the way we battle.”
For years now, I’ve just chuckled, figuring Ariola’s descriptions were simply use of a favored word; a matter of convenience.
But a look back at Ariola’s 17-plus years as skipper of the Blue Devils tells fans (and writers) that the coach’s comments have been dead-on all these years.
DHS, indeed, battles.
In winning Sac-Joaquin Section championships in 2000 and 2004, there were gritty showings in north-division playoffs that gave the locals a leg up when conquering their southern foes. Last year, the Devils were one of the final three schools standing before getting nipped by Delta Valley Conference colleague Franklin. The Wildcats went on to lose the title to St. Mary’s, making that 4-2 Blue Devil loss the week before ever more distasteful.
If memory serves, DHS has missed the postseason only twice in the Ariola Era. While other teams knock the ball all over the park (and over the fence) — Davis finds a way to put pressure on opponents, making ground balls and 3-2 pitches momentous occasions.
Take Tuesday’s 8-1 win over visiting Napa for example…
Seven infield singles accounted for a lion’s share of the Devil offense (14 hits in all) and brilliant pitching by starter Matt Trask and reliever Jake Miille hinted that DHS won’t need fencebusters to again throw their caps in the title hunt.
Clean-up hitter Bobby Young was asked to bunt on Tuesday, and Ariola’s hit-and-runs paid dividends on two different occasions.
Davis is now 4-0, and this comes after graduating three first-tier hurlers in Ben Eckels (in the Arizona Diamondback system), Jack Shelledy and exceptional left-handed reliever Reinert Toft. Gone, too, is versatile George Hatamiya.
But in the field, Ariola knew he had depth returning — and believes, at least after four games, that his charges are “ahead of where we were last year.”
Wow. Remember, DHS was 25-8 in 2012, sharing the DVC pennant with Elk Grove.
Ariola’s New Edition has given old cast members new assignments.
Ryan Kreidler has proved to be The Real Deal. “He’s the first freshman I’ve committed to before the season started,” Ariola told me a couple of weeks ago. “Him being in the lineup allows us to do a lot of things.”
So far, Kreidler’s getting time in left field, but can play shortstop, second and third (as well as pitch).
In addition to that utility Kreidler brings, Ariola has moved Ryan Plumb from short to the hot corner while Joe Murray goes from second to short. Brett Bloomfield plays second and Young has gone from third to first.
Whew. But there’s more …
Ariola’s kid John — still only a junior — has left the infield and is patrolling center, while Chris Daunt toils in the wicked right-field sun at DHS.
Getting spot starts behind the plate in ’12, senior Hayden Duer has been a stalwart wearing the gear this spring, and adds some pop down the lineup.
Young and Adam Inouye have both won games on the mound and pitching coach Marc Kenner says fans haven’t seen anything yet. Davis has at least nine live arms and most have yet to set the light of day.
In all, these Devils have emerged and played beyond expectations. No longer surprising people, opponents from here on out will hunker down when they see “Davis” on the schedule.
With spring weather here, there’s nothing better than an afternoon at the ballpark. Especially when your hometown Blue Devils are out there battling.
(After Friday’s home game against Rocklin (4 p.m.), the Devils don’t return to Davis until April 5 when they host Grant in a DVC game. Jesuit and DHS meet at Raley Field at 6:30 p.m. March 22.)
While I Have You Here: Davis’ own Fitness App Queen Jamima Wolk is launching the new iRideInside application on Sunday at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame (4-6 p.m.).
Her latest program will give followers a chance to get on their bikes and workout in a number of ways.
The St. Patrick’s Day event will feature free food, drinks (Berryessa Gap) and activities — as well as giving launch-goers free admission to the Hall of Fame. Wolk says there will be prizes from Fleet Feet Davis, Fit House, Moxie Cycling, Davis Creamery, Stella & Do, Renew Denim and Kangeroo Fitness, among others.
Have some free snacks, then ride off the calories with your new iRideInside app.
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8047.