Thunder claim section title in baseball

Rocklin tops Granite Bay 4-2
By: Russ Edmondson The Placer Herald
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Rocklin High topped Granite Bay 4-2 on Monday night for its third Sac-Joaquin Section, Division II baseball title in four years. All three of the Thunder’s championships have come against Granite Bay. Rocklin beat Granite Bay for section titles in 2009 (11-7 score) and 2007 (6-5 score). Granite Bay won the Sierra Foothill League this season while Rocklin (24-8) finished second although the Thunder went 3-1 against the Grizzlies (22-9) this year. Monday night’s championship game was played in front of an overflow crowd of excited fans at Sacramento City College. “They play very well and they have a great team,” Rocklin coach Roc Murray said. “(Granite Bay coach) Pat (Esposito) has done a good job – that’s a tremendous program. We’ve been really lucky to get them three times (for section titles). Honestly – I would rather have played anybody but Granite Bay today.” Thunder senior ace pitcher Matt Fielding was too much to handle for Granite Bay. He outdueled Granite Bay senior ace pitcher and SFL MVP Braden Young. Fielding threw all seven innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out four. Five of the eight base-runners he allowed were because of Thunder errors in the infield. Young lasted 5 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits, four walks and four earned runs while striking out three. Kyle Schlehofer pitched the final 1 2/3 innings for Granite Bay, walking two and striking out two. “They stuck with it and kept it from bothering them,” said Murray about the five errors, two of which came in the seventh and final inning. “Matt gives us a great advantage and he just kept battling (through the errors) . . . Matt has been like this all year and he kept us going no matter what else was going on (all season).” Fielding will start his college career as a pitcher for Oregon State next year. “He carries us – he’s our captain and our leader on and off the field,” said Rocklin senior shortstop Justin Castro about Fielding. “This is the best feeling ever.” Fielding impressed Esposito. “You have to give it up to Fielding,” Esposito said. “They make five errors behind the guy and he still got it done tonight. He beat us. Truth is, their pitcher was better than our pitcher tonight.” Castro drove in Rocklin’s first run of the night, knocking in leadoff man Austin Diemer with a groundout to shortstop in the top of the first inning. Diemer reached base on a dropped-third strike. “We felt that we needed to score on them quickly,” Castro said. “I just made sure that I got the ball on the ground.” The Thunder added another run in the top of the fourth inning as Trevor McVey drove in Castro with a single. The Grizzlies tied the game at 2-2 in the last of the fourth inning when Matt Gifford slammed a two-run homer to left-center field with two outs. It was Granite Bay’s first hit of the game. Rocklin took the lead back in the top of the fifth inning. Young balked in the first run, scoring Chris Streeter from third base with two outs. Marker singled home Castro on the next pitch to make it 4-2. That was enough for Fielding as he allowed one hit and no walks over the final three innings. “Just calm down and pick up the team – staying composed on the mound,” said Fielding about how he dealt with five errors. He also remained calm after giving up the two-run homer that tied the game. “I thought back to my sophomore year (on varsity). I gave up a two-run shot to them and I got through it. So I knew I’d done this before and it calmed me down,” Fielding said. Fielding was also the winning pitcher when the Thunder beat the Grizzlies for the section title last year (six innings, five runs, three earned runs, seven strikeouts) “Back-to-back titles – I really can’t explain (how it feels),” Fielding said. Fielding got out of a mini jam in the bottom of the seventh and final inning. Two Grizzlies reached safely on errors but Fielding got Nate Esposito to groundout to Rocklin first baseman Ben Brown to end the game. And clinch the section championship. “We wanted to be the best team we could be on the last day of the season . . . and we were,” Murray said. Diemer (reached base three times, run), Castro (1-2, two runs), Marker (2-3, RBI) and Fielding (2-3, double) were among Rocklin’s offensive leaders.