Saturday May 23 2009
Granite Bay/Rocklin part IV- this one's for the title
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
SFL rivals meet again with section crown on line
The ongoing diamond rivalry between Granite Bay High and Rocklin will play itself out one more time when the two Sierra Foothill League foes battle it out Monday for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship. Just two seasons ago, these two clubs tangled at American River College, with Rocklin taking the title 6-5. As it did this year, Rocklin won the regular season league title in 2007, but some of the circumstances of this championship rematch have changed. “We think we have a little more offensive power that we did two years ago,” said Granite Bay coach Pat Esposito. “The big difference is that this time our pitchers have a full six days rest and theirs have just three. That is opposite of the situation we faced then.” Pitching is always a key, and that should hold in this contest as well, although the most recent of this season’s three head-to-head games turned into a 15-14 slugfest with balls sailing out of the yard. Rocklin won all three meetings during the SFL regular season, leaving the Grizzlies hungry to get one back. “You’ve got to be careful what you wish for,” Esposito said, “but we wanted this matchup. They have good players and so do we. We’ve played each other so much that we know what they do and they know what we do. It’s going to be a battle.” The Grizzlies have not yet decided which pitcher will take the ball at the outset, but whether it is right-hander Braden Young or southpaw Tyler Bibbins, he will be well rested. Young was the winning pitcher in Monday’s huge playoff win over Del Oro, and has delivered some of his biggest performances on the big stage. Earlier this season, the junior came on in relief with the Grizzlies trailing a dominant Yuba City team and held the Honkers scoreless over six inning as his team came back for an extra inning victory. Bibbins is 6-1 with a 3.40 ERA, with a victory in the must-win postseason opener against Rosemont. He gives the Grizzlies a consistent presence and an emotional boost whenever he takes the mound. Esposito expects to see Rocklin left-hander Matt Fielding, who pitched in every game of the Thunder’s best-of-three win over Ponderosa in the semifinals. That series concluded Thursday night, when the senior southpaw got the win in relief in an 8-7 come-from-behind win. Rocklin can also turn to a big right-hander, in power-pitching Jason Hampton, who is 5-0 and averages better than one strikeout per inning. On offense, the Thunder ride the big bats of Pat Stover (.462 batting average, .543 on-base percentage) and Hampton (.367, 35 RBIs), and rely on their ability to create runs through the rest of the batting order. “Against Ponderosa, Rocklin scored the last four runs that won the game on mistakes.” Esposito said. “They are well-coached and do the little things right. They do things like squeezing with two strikes. We have to avoid mistakes and give them no freebies.” Granite Bay carries the statistical advantage in the batter’s box. Led by Andrew Knapp’s .511 average and six long balls, the Grizzly lineup is loaded from top to bottom. No. 3 hitter Travis Israel (.452) and second baseman Trevor Trinidad are two of the area’s best clutch hitters. The Granite Bay table-setters provide a nice lead-in to the thunder in the middle of the order, as Sean Sundberg has a knack for taking one for the team. The junior was hit by a pitch 13 times this season, and has a .476 OBP. Sam Flajole is hitting .383 in between Sundberg and Israel. Rocklin (22-8) seems to have the Grizzlies number, but the title game rematch gives Granite Bay (21-10) one last chance to settle an old score. The game begins at 6 p.m. Monday at Sacramento City College’s Union Stadium.