Woodcreek tops Granite Bay for Division II section baseball crown
If you were playing one game for a championship, into whose hands would you want to put the ball with the game on the line?
This question is asked around playoff time for each major sport. Worldwide, from the last generation to this generation, Michael Jordan is the name that still comes to mind most. Regionally, Joe Montana gets several votes, too, though that argument increases.
In high school baseball this season, from all points of the greater Sacramento area, the honor goes to Stephen Nogosek of Woodcreek High School — junior Stephen Nogosek.
“Luckily, I get to have him next year, too,” first-year Timberwolves head coach Eric Valencia said following Monday night’s 9-2 victory over Sierra Foothill League rival Granite Bay (23-8) in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game at packed Sacramento City College.
Nogosek mixed his challenging fastball with baiting junk in tossing a 122-pitch two-hitter in helping Woodcreek win its second section baseball crown. He threw 70 strikes and 52 balls and struck out six. But hey, Granite Bay scored, which Bella Vista and Rocklin failed to do against the right-hander in the first two rounds.
Granite Bay sophomore Devin Lehman drew two of Nogosek’s three walks and scored both runs. Sophomore Mitch Hart had the Grizzlies’ only two hits.
“He’s a competitor. He’s an amazing kid,” Granite Bay head coach Pat Esposito said of Nogosek. “He doesn’t allow adversity to get to him. He’s mentally tough. He kept coming and kept coming. The X factor is Stephen Nogosek.”
Nogosek leads mentally as much as physically. He patted heads, exchanged high
fives and slapped backsides as his senior teammates were called on to pinch hit and pinch run.
“I’ll miss them much, just the vibe they bring,” Nogosek said of Woodcreek’s seniors. “They set a good example, and we’re a close bunch of guys.”
“Nogo,” as he’s known, is at a point where receiving one run can make a mental impact … on Woodcreek and the opposition. The Timberwolves (24-7) scored four in the top of the second with Austin Hagarty’s two-run double following Shaun Mize’s RBI single, Mize's first of three hits.
“This is amazing,” said Mize, Woodcreek’s quarterback the last two falls who next school year will play baseball for the University of Nevada. “We’ve put in a lot of work. We’ve been going at it for four years.”
Woodcreek scored two runs in the third and three in the fourth with junior George Corp roping singles and scoring a run in each frame.
“We knew if we got a couple of runs, we’d get a chance with Nogosek,” said Valencia, who didn’t win a section championship in 15 years as Wheatland’s coach before replacing Kelly Mayo at Woodcreek. “It’s exciting. I knew I had a quality team. We set a goal, and we did it.”
Nogosek struck out the first two hitters he faced and the last two. He recorded four 1-2-3 innings and received stellar defense from Mize at shortstop and senior Bobby Pajer at second. The middle infield combined to handle 10 chances. The Timberwolves also turned a misplayed fly ball into a force out at second.
While Woodcreek will return several key players next season, so will Granite Bay.
“It was another good, productive year. One game doesn’t define where we are,” Esposito said of his SFL-champion Grizzlies, who won two of three from Woodcreek in their regular-season series. “We worked hard to get here. We had to do it all year.”