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Roseville takes down Del Oro, earns playoff spot

Tigers lead big early and can't be caught
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The long climb back to the Sac-Joaquin Section baseball playoffs was not easy for Roseville High, but the Tigers made it work anyway. After two days of hitting balls on the screws without great offensive results, Roseville finally caught a couple of early breaks Thursday in building an insurmountable early advantage on the road at Del Oro. The result was an 11-6 win that pushes the Tigers past the Eagles and into the section Division II tournament beginning next week. Del Oro was down by six runs after two innings in this winner-take-all Sierra Foothill League game, and while the Golden Eagles made it interesting, they did not have enough. After splitting the first two games of the three-game series, the two squads entered this contest tied for third and knowing that only Thursday’s winner would continue playing into next week. The Tigers played like a team on a mission, using a collection of bloopers and bunts to score four in the first against Del Oro starter Brian Bynum. After Bynum retired the first two Roseville hitters on pop-ups, he walked Anthony Roberts and then the floodgates opened. Dalton Blaser singled and then John Silva dropped down a beautiful bunt base hit. Three flares followed, following just out of the reach of Golden Eagle infielders, as Matt Parks, Sam Vergara and Conner Eggleston combined to put the Tigers up 4-0 after the first frame. After surviving a bases-loaded, one out situation in the Del Oro seventh to win a one-run game Wednesday that kept the Tigers alive, the momentum seemed to stay in the visiting dugout as Thursday’s game began. “We have hit so many balls so hard right at people the last few days,” said Roseville coach Hank DeMello. “It was nice to finally see some of those balls fall in for us.” Roseville added two more in the second on a pair of long sacrifice flies, and it looked bleak for the home team, but there was no quit in the Eagles and Roseville had to earn this one. Roberts was the surprise starter on the bump for the Tigers, and he set down the first six hitters he faced before getting in some trouble in the third. The hard-throwing right-hander has not been given many opportunities to pitch this season and he gutted out five tough innings for a team that was short on healthy arms. “We have a couple of pitchers (Blaser and Matt Maher) who are battling some injuries and we turned to Anthony,” DeMello said. “I did not tell him until today because he would not have slept much last night if he had known in advance. He did a great job giving us five innings. He was really pitching on fumes the last two innings.” Singles by Freddy Cargile, Copper Johnson, Jesse Lang, Ryan Xepoleus and Cole Perez allowed Del Oro to plate five runs in the home half of the third, and suddenly it was a one-run game. The inning followed a tough break for the Tigers, as a seventh run was erased on an appeal play that followed Parks scoring on an apparent sacrifice fly. Roseville felt strongly that the umpires had missed their assignments on the play and missed the call. “That missed rotation, we’ll call it, was a big momentum changer,” DeMello said. Roseville did not let that affect them long as No. 9 hitter Tyler Ash left the yard to lead off the fourth, turning the tide back in its direction. The Tigers added another run to get back to a three-run cushion at 8-5, and with Ash coming on to toss two strong closing innings, that was enough. The Roseville closer had just hurled a complete game in Roseville’s Wednesday win, but when called upon one day later, he was up to the challenge. “Ash kicked our butts the last two days,” Lachemann said. “Down 6-0 was tough on us today, but these guys battled like we have all year. We just couldn’t do enough to keep it close.” Roseville added three runs in the top half of the sixth to put some space between the teams. A bunt single by Matt Hack was the only Tiger knock in that stanza, as a walk, a hit batter and two dropped fly balls in the outfield created the Roseville scoring. Roseville’s speed was a key once again as the top of the Tiger batting order takes the extra base at will. “It is great to watch those gazelles run,” DeMello said. Lang and Xepoleus each had two hits for the Eagles as both teams banged out a total of nine hits in the game. The loss ends a tough season for Del Oro, which swept Nevada Union last week to set up this decisive set with Roseville. Roseville’s nine-hit offense was paced by the Ash home run along with two hits each by Parks and Eggleston. “If you had told us three weeks ago that we would be playing Roseville with a chance, we would have taken it,” Lachemann said. “We had them (with the Tuesday win), but hats off to Roseville, they came down to our place and took two.” Del Oro finishes its year 8-10 in the Sierra Foothill League and 12-12-1 overall. The Tigers (9-9, 14-13) open the D-II playoffs at 5 p.m. next Friday against Rosemont, a team that beat the Tigers 2-1 in the first game of the year. The D-II tourney will be played at Sacramento City College. “That (first meeting) was back when the rain had kept us off the field and we had not done a lot of hitting,” DeMello said. “Matt Maher pitched a four-hitter against them, but we did not hit much. We are swinging the bats a lot better now. It is just great to be back there (in the playoffs).”