Another title shot for Granite Bay
Editor's Note: With its 15-3 win over Oak Ridge Saturday afternoon, Rocklin earned the right to defend its section baseball title in a final game rematch with league rival Granite Bay. The Grizzlies will look to beat the team that has topped them in two of the last three section championship contests.
Fresh off a sweep of its rivals from Roseville High, the Granite Bay High baseball team enters the weekend unsure who it will face in the section title game.
What the Grizzlies do know is that they will be there when the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II baseball championship gets decided on the field at Sacramento City College Monday night.
This will be the third time in four years for Granite Bay in the section title game, with a pair of losses to the same team, SFL rival Rocklin, to show for the last two trips. This year’s team may face that same Thunder squad on Monday, but coach Pat Esposito says this year’s Grizzlies have a different feel about them.
“These guys play a lot looser than some of our teams in the past,” Esposito said. “Things don’t get under their skin as much. In the past, little things have gotten to us, but I don’t see that this year.”
Rocklin and Oak Ridge have played a pair of marathon playoff games in their best-of-three series, with Rocklin winning in nine innings and the Trojans taking a 12-inning affair. With the weather and graduation impacting the schedule, that semifinal series will not be determined until Saturday afternoon, with the winner earning a shot at the Grizzlies.
“In terms of preparation, it doesn’t matter much which team we see,” Esposito said. “Both would be throwing tough left-handers against us and both are strong, well-coached teams. We know Rocklin better and that would make that matchup a little more comfortable, but we know enough about Oak Ridge as well. Rocklin is more systematic, and Oak Ridge is a bit more scrappy.”
While Rocklin would have its southpaw ace, Matt Fielding, ready for a Monday contest, and Oak Ridge would come with left-handed star Kyle Porter, the Grizzlies are set with the right-hander at the top of their rotation, as Braden Young will take the ball in the title game.
Esposito is confident heading in, not only because of Young, but also because his offense is clicking.
“I feel good about us because we swing the bat pretty well,” Esposito said.
The Grizzlies have received a huge lift from their new lead-off hitter, senior shortstop Jake Riffice. With Sean Sundberg not with the team in the postseason, Riffice has stepped up big at the top of the order. He had four hits in the clinching win over Roseville on Wednesday, and has proven to be very good at hitting deep in the count.
The loss of Jordan Weber in centerfield during the Roseville series would seem to be a blow, but Granite Bay keeps getting contributions from players like Adam Mastrantonio, Matt Gifford and Paul Wilson to complement the thumpers up top - Nate Esposito, Andrew Knapp, Jake Marjama and Riley Drongesen.
As for the recent history with the Thunder, if that turns out to be the matchup, the Granite Bay skipper thinks this year’s team has put that behind them.
“I think we blew all of that out of the water when we beat them 7-1 the last time we saw them,” Esposito said. “Our guys know why we didn’t win the first two game this year (losses by scores of 4-3 and 3-1), and they feel they’re the better team.”
Monday’s game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. first pitch at Sacramento City College. The game between Rocklin and Oak Ridge that will determine the Grizzlies’ final challenger will be contested at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sac City.
Sac-Joaquin Section baseball championship games
Memorial Day, Monday, May 31
Division VII – Valley Christian vs. Bradshaw Christian, noon, Union Stadium at Sac City College
Division II – Granite Bay vs. Rocklin or Oak Ridge, 6 p.m., Union Stadium at Sac City College