Granite Bay inches ahead in SFL baseball sprint

Grizzlies hand Rocklin fourth loss in a row; Nevada Union knocks Woodcreek into second
By: Bill Poindexter, Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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The forecast called for lightning strikes Monday, but there were none to be seen when Sierra Foothill League baseball teams continued their horse race to the finish line.

There wasn’t even any Thunder clapping. Granite Bay senior Gabe Meza took care of that.

Meza fired a two-hitter in a 4-0 shutout over host Rocklin that moved the Grizzlies into first place with two games remaining Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We hold our own destiny right now,” Granite Bay coach Pat Esposito said. “We sweep, we win it. If we lose one, then we need help from Nevada Union.”

The Miners (13-12 overall, 6-7 SFL) helped the Grizzlies (16-8, 10-3) on Monday by handing host Woodcreek a 4-3 setback that knocked the Timberwolves (18-6, 9-4) into second place.

Meanwhile, Rocklin (14-10, 8-5), atop the standings at the start of last week, lost its fourth consecutive game — and third via shutout — to fall into third place, two games behind Granite Bay.

Meza consistently clocked 88 mph on a Sacramento State radar — where he’s headed on scholarship next fall — and tickled Hornets brass by hitting 90 a time or two.

“The real story is that Gabe pretty much handled them at the plate,” Esposito said of Meza, who walked one, hit one and struck out five. “It was a solid game by him. He threw well.”

Senior Ryan Rosa and junior Devin Lehman each went 3 for 4, and the Grizzlies’ Zach Hall landed the knockout blow with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth.

“We swung it pretty well,” Esposito said of his Grizzlies, who totaled 10 hits to beat Thunder senior ace Austin Dick.

The teams meet again Tuesday “at our yard,” Esposito said. “Hopefully, the weather holds up.”

Woodcreek lost its grip on first place when it couldn’t solve Nevada Union senior right-hander Cody Gardner, who also beat the Timberwolves last season before they won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship. Gardner scattered seven hits, walked three and struck out three.

“We weren’t ready to play. We just took it easy,” Woodcreek coach Eric Valencia said. “Every game from now on, we gotta win it. Hopefully, they learn from it.”

True. The SFL champion collects a first-round bye and will open the Division I playoffs Wednesday, May 15, at Sacramento City College against the survivor between the Delta Valley Conference runner-up — Davis or Elk Grove — and the Monticello Empire League’s No. 3 team, which probably means facing that team’s No. 2 pitcher.

The SFL runner-up will meet the Delta River League’s No. 3 team on Monday, May 13, and the winner will meet the DVC champ — and most likely its ace — Thursday, May 16.

Woodcreek junior Cy Hynes left after four innings trailing 2-1 — one run was unearned — and Nevada Union scored twice in the top of the fifth to move ahead 4-1.

George Corp drove in the Timberwolves’ first run in the second, and Joey Dirkes and Tyler Milani had back-to-back run-scoring singles in the fifth to pull Woodcreek within 4-3, but Gardner overcame a two-out walk in the seventh to finish the complete game.

On another note, flame-throwing Woodcreek ace Stephen Nogosek returned from a break to rest a shore right shoulder and struck out two in a scoreless seventh. He allowed two hits.

The teams were scheduled to meet Tuesday in Grass Valley but will play again at Woodcreek instead following Monday’s rain in the hills. They’ll play Wednesday at Nevada Union.

Also on Monday, Roseville (9-16, 3-10) defeated visiting Del Oro 2-1 in eight innings at Clancy Field.

Kyle Downie pitched a five-hitter and allowed no earned runs against the Golden Eagles (7-17, 3-10), and Austin Ash doubled in Matt Grashoff with the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Ash also homered and went 3 for 4 with two RBI. Grashoff was 2 for 4.