A year ago, the Grant High School baseball team went to Franklin in Elk Grove and got clobbered 18-1.
With the same group a bit older and a lot more seasoned, The Bee-ranked No. 15 Pacers pulled an 8-3 road victory over No. 7 Franklin 8-3 in a Delta Valley Conference game, issuing a formal statement that the league race goes well beyond heavyweight programs such as Elk Grove, Davis and Franklin.
Sophomore left hander Cameron Avila-Leeper produced yet another strong effort, pitching with power and composure. He struck out 13 and walked two and now has strikeout games of 13, 13, 16 and 17.
With the bases loaded on an infield hit, an error and a walk with no outs in the bottom of the first, Avila-Leeper promptly struck out the side to get out of it. He also struck out the side in the second in working with a freshman catcher in Sammy Revalis, who got his first varsity start after junior starter Sammy Si separated his shoulder in a game last week.
Grant scored six runs on seven hits in the second off RBI singles by Michael Lee, Brandon Nunn, Omar Pina and Vinnie Wright. A senior outfielder, Wright had four hits and two RBI, including two triples.
Grant at 10-2 is off to its best start since 1991 under coach Danny Chavez, a Bee All-Metro pitcher for the Pacers in the late 1980s. The Pacers play host to dangerous Laguna Creek on Friday then plays Elk Grove and Davis next week.
Franklin, meanwhile, is up against the backstop. The Wildcats got off to a slow start this season while taking on top-tier competition, then went 4-0 in the Fresno Easter Tournament. Elk Grove beat Franklin 5-4 on Monday. The Wildcats still expect to make a run for the title behind Ryan Sarginson, Trent Spallas, Kyle Von Ruden, Tyler Blake, Nick Frei and Josh Pigg, among others.
As for Grant, the rise to respectability continues. Grant hasn't won 10 ore more games since 1991.
"We're coming together," Chavez told his team. "We're forming a bond, becoming brothers. Where we came from a year ago....we lost here 18-1 the last time we were here. All the dedication, the hard work is paying off. Now keep it up in the classroom, too. There are 35 days left of school, and we're nothing without education."
- By Joe Davidson