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Tigers tag Rosemont, advance to baseball semifinal series

Roseville turns up the power in beating Metro champs
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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It doesn’t happen the same way every day, but somehow, some way, the Roseville High baseball team just keeps finding ways to extend its season. The first-round single-elimination game format deployed by the Sac-Joaquin Section for Division II baseball did not phase the Tigers, as they have been down to their last loss for three straight games. Moving on to the second round best-of-three format against Granite Bay will bring the first game in a while that has not been must-win for Roseville. Friday night at Sacramento City College, the Tigers used a huge third inning to take care of Metro League champion Rosemont 10-4. Roseville began the game with the look of a team that felt it would need to scratch and claw for every run, but small ball turned into long ball for the Tigers in the third. Matt Hack led off the game for Roseville with a single, and then promptly stole second and finally broke for third, eliciting a balk from Rosemont pitcher Jason Fletcher. With Nick Blaser in the batter’s box, the Tigers called for the squeeze play, but the designated hitter fouled off the bunt, sending Hack back to third. “We wanted to try some things early and see what we could do,” said Roseville coach Hank DeMello regarding the first inning squeeze attempt. “With Nick coming back, there was some uncertainty, but he can always bunt.” Blaser, who has been out all season with a meniscus tear, ended up getting double-digit pitches in his first at-bat of the year before drawing a free pass and Hack finally scored on a ground ball out to put the Tigers on top early. “Nick saw all of his pitches in that first at-bat,” DeMello said. “It was a great at-bat and a really good thing for him to see so many pitches as he is coming back after being out. Looking down the road, it was a good thing to have tonight.” Roseville ran into outs on the bases to prematurely end both the first and second stanzas, but in the third, the Tigers took control of the game offensively. Beau Smith, who had been left standing at the plate when the second inning ended, led off the third with a home run. With the wind pushing out to left, the Roseville center fielder got just enough to push the ball over the top of the wall in left-center. Hack then reached on an infield single, and scored on a Dalton Blaser base hit. John Silva chased home two more with a single of his own, and in the process ran Fletcher off the mound in favor of Wesley Vancil. “We had some carryover from the Del Oro series,” DeMello said. “Other than during our games against Granite Bay, we have been hitting the ball well, but hitting a lot of balls at people.” The new Rosemont hurler received somewhat of a rude welcome from Tiger first baseman Matt Parks, who greeted him with a two-run blast over the right field fence that put the cap on the six-run outburst. “We knew coming in that we were facing a guy with one of the lowest ERA’s in the area,” DeMello said. “After that six-spot I am not sure that is true any more.” Roseville right-hander Sam Vergara cruised through the first two innings on the bump, but the Wolverines finally got to him in the third as hits by Dylan Malone and Shane Blunk combined with a couple of Roseville miscues created Rosemont’s first run. Vergara’s day was not without its adventures. The first three batters in the fourth and again in the fifth reached base against him, but in both cases, he was able to get the pitches he needed to avoid the big inning. He scattered nine hits over the seven innings to go the distance. “He keeps his pitch count down by throwing strikes,” DeMello said. “His strength is getting them to put the ball in play, which is great for our defense. Rosemont has some really aggressive swingers, and when we faced them earlier this year, Matt Maher got through on just 67 pitches.” It was an impressive pitching performance for a senior who was not even on the baseball team at Roseville just one year ago. “Sammy has been such a surprising addition this year,” DeMello said. “He was in the program for two years, but had some arm problems so he sat out last year and played golf instead. He is a scratch golfer so we are just glad to have him back.” It didn’t hurt that Roseville tacked on three more runs in the top of the fifth to create a more sizable margin. A two-run triple by Smith was the big blow in that rally. Vergara allowed single base runners in the sixth and seventh, but was never pressed during the final two innings as Roseville finished off the Metro champions and earned the chance to take a shot at Granite Bay in a three-game series. Parks and Smith provided the power for Roseville. Parks was a triple short of the cycle as his three hits included a single, double and the home run. Smith’s two hits were a triple and a long ball. Hack and Dalton Blaser each contributed a pair of singles to the 11-hit Roseville attack. The Tigers (15-13), who finished third in the Sierra Foothill League, join the top two teams from that league in the section semifinals as the SFL once again provides three of Division II’s final four. Roseville and Granite Bay (20-8) will begin their semifinal series at 8 p.m. Monday back out at Sac City College. It will conclude with either one or two games Wednesday night, with the first set to start at 5 p.m. “I'm hoping we can battle with them,” DeMello said. “Their pitching staff is one of the tops in the area, they play catch, and they have at least three and as many as five scholarship kids. They are big and play momentum baseball. I just hope our kids can give them a game.” Not that the Tiger coach isn’t confident that his team will show up ready to play. He knows that he gets this group’s best effort every single night out. “We are a scrappy bunch,” DeMello said. “We have beaten some pretty good teams, but we are young. They (Granite Bay) have been here before and we haven't been this far in almost 20 years. I have told our kids that I would go to battle with anyone with this group. We have become pretty close because we are often the underdog.” Whatever happens on the field next week, the Tigers have lifted themselves back into the local baseball spotlight after a significant absence and they are enjoying the experience. They know that in the game of baseball anything can happen. “I wouldn't trade these players for anyone,” DeMello said. “We're going to show up and we are going to battle to the best of our abilities. We've done that all year. It could be fun. The eight o’clock game on the biggest stage in Sacramento, it just doesn't get any better than that.”