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Granite Bay wins 10-inning early season classic

Grizzlies ride Young's arm to win over Yuba City
By: Kurt Johnson, senior sports editor
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Someone forgot to tell the baseball players from Granite Bay and Yuba City that the high school playoff action this week is taking place on the hardwood and not on the baseball diamond. “That’s the way it always is when we play them,” said Granite Bay coach Pat Esposito. “It’s a lot of fun.” The two highly ranked squads took the field at Granite Bay Tuesday afternoon and played with the intensity of a postseason battle. It took 10 innings to resolve the issue, as the Grizzlies pushed across the game-winner in the home half of the inning to take a 6-5 win. With senior right-hander Travis Israel taking the ball at the outset for Granite Bay, junior Braden Young could not have anticipated that he would be the pitching hero, not to mention the guy standing in the batter’s box with the game on the line. “These guys have seen most of our pitchers,” Esposito said. “We decided to go with Israel to give them a little different look.” After the Grizzlies took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Yuba City starter Jake Stassi, the Honkers answered with the contest’s next five runs. A trio of doubles by Max Stassi, Hunter Graves and Brian Boss chased home two runs in the second. Another Max Stassi two-bagger set the table for a third run in the top half of the third inning, as the Yuba City senior catcher took third on a sacrifice bunt before racing across the dish on a wild pitch. A two-run home run by Boss extended the advantage to 5-1 in the fourth and ended Israel’s night on the bump. Young came in out of the Granite Bay bullpen in the fifth inning and tossed six shutout innings, allowing the Grizzlies to get back into and eventually win the game. The junior right-hander struck out nine and allowed just two hits, while walking three. Granite Bay centerfielder Joe Mauro played long ball in the fifth to shave one run off the Yuba City lead, and then the Grizzlies chased Jake Stassi during a three-run sixth inning rally that evened things up at 5-5. Third basemen Sam Flajole ripped a double to lead off the Granite Bay sixth, and then came in to score as Israel reached on an error. Andrew Knapp followed with his third hit of the game. Israel and Knapp scored the tying runs on a Jake Marjama pinch-hit RBI ground out followed by a run-scoring Mauro single, but Honker reliever Hunter Graves limited the damage and after a scoreless seventh frame, the clubs heading to extra innings. Neither team was able to light the scoreboard as they played through the eighth and ninth and on into the 10th inning as Graves and Young kept posting the zeroes. In front of a large crowd, especially for a preseason matchup, a critical mistake paid a huge dividend for the Grizzlies and proved costly for Yuba City. With the excitement level on high and rising with each pitch, Flajole led off the 10th with a great at-bat that ended with a single. As Israel squared to move his teammate 90 feet closer to the game-winner, the Honkers called for a pitch-out, and one of the region’s most outstanding players committed the critical error that opened the door for the Granite Bay win. Stassi gunned the ball to first base in an attempt to pick Flajole off, but his first baseman was a bit late in arriving and the throw sailed far down the right-field line. Flajole raced around to third, carrying the potential winning run to within 90 feet of home plate with no one out. After retiring Israel, Yuba City sent Knapp to first base on an intentional walk to bring up Lydell Moseby. Graves got the Grizzly first basemen to pop up on the infield, bringing Young to the plate with two outs and a chance to help himself. Young battled Graves deep into the count, and with two outs and two strikes delivered a line drive that landed in front of the Yuba City centerfielder for a run-scoring, game-winning single. The Grizzlies raced to home plate to greet Flajole as he scored the decisive run, as Granite Bay improved to 4-0 passing a major test against a talented team that should help prepare the Grizzlies for the opening of the SFL season on Thursday. “This is why we play preseason games like this one,” said Granite Bay assistant coach Dave Brown. “These guys play a lot like (defending Sierra Foothill League champion) Rocklin. They are two of the best hitting teams around.” Knapp was 4-for-4 in the game, while Mauro and Flajole each banged out three hits in an 11-hit Granite Bay attack. The Grizzlies host Woodcreek in their league opener at 4 p.m. Thursday.