Big-time Optimist matchup: Blaser vs. blazer

Roseville slugger’s double off youth baseball buddy Davis caps 5-for-5 night
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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While the best graduating high school baseball players in the greater Sacramento area ripped balls all over the field during the 40th annual Optimist All-Star Games on Saturday night, Nick Blaser of Roseville and J.D. Davis of Elk Grove had their own little game going.

There were short exchanges while Davis, who was drafted in the fifth round by Tampa Bay four days earlier, was a baserunner at second and Blaser was playing shortstop. There were hand signals and eye contact when Davis was on the mound and Blaser was in the dugout.

“He asked me when I was up (in the top of the ninth inning). I thought I was going to be up fourth,” a smiling Blaser said afterward. “He said, ‘OK, I'll walk a guy.’”

When Davis went to the mound in the ninth, he looked into the North dugout, where Blaser held up three fingers. He was up third.

Davis closed the South’s 13-9 victory at American River College after he and Blaser engaged in a quick, entertaining, three-fastball pitcher-vs.-hitter duel.

These two have a history filled with fond memories. They were opponents as youth players — Davis in Elk Grove PONY and Blaser in Roseville PONY — and teammates with the successful Roseville Red Dawgs.

“We had maybe one or two matchups ever, probably not since Pinto all-stars,” Blaser recalled. “Everyone was a pitcher back then.”

And there they stood facing each other with two outs in the top of the ninth — Davis, with a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton, a 6-foot-2 right-hander whose fastball lives in the mid to upper 80s and climbs into the low 90s, against Blaser, one of the best pure hitters in the area who led Roseville’s march to its first Sac-Joaquin Section Division II baseball crown in 27 years.

“It had to be finished,” Blaser said, still smiling. “I knew he was going to come after me.”

Davis did. No curveballs, no dirty changeups, just straight-up heat.

Blaser swung through Davis’ first blazer for strike one, and he took strike two. Blaser stroked Davis’ next fastball to the gap in left-center field and raced to second for his second double of the night.

There were hits raked to all points of ARC’s field, including 18 by the South. But no one had a night like Blaser, who went 5 for 5, split time making plays at shortstop and second base, and earned the North MVP award.

In the sixth, he stretched a line drive over the shortstop’s head into his first double. In the eighth, Blaser singled off Jordan Johnson of Elk Grove-Franklin, another 90-mph slinger, to drive in the first of five runs in the inning that turned a two-run deficit into a 9-6 lead.

Granite Bay’s Andrew Wilson also had a big game for the North, going 3 for 3. He singled in Rocklin’s Austin Diemer in the fifth, advanced on a single by Grizzlies teammate Nate Esposito and scored on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Olson of Yuba City to give the North a 4-3 lead.

Esposito drove in the final run in the eighth with a chop single between short and third. He followed Oakmont’s Kyle Jones, who was hit by a hard fastball on a cool, breezy night.

Roseville’s Anthony Roberts had one hit for the North.

The South also won the small-schools game 9-3. Valley Christian’s Junior Casas, who hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh inning of the Division VII section championship game, went 0 for 3 for the North. Lions teammate Micky DeFiebre was 0 for 2 and scored a run.