Today is Senior Ditch Day at Davis High School, meaning those closing in on graduation can play hooky and go hang out at, say, the library for kicks and giggles.
Rest assured, the seniors for the Blue Devils baseball team will be in the front row of classes with their minds on the urgency for Friday night's engagement with rival Franklin.
With Ben Eckels dueling Elway Santistevan in a terrific, fast-paced pitching duel, Davis beat Vacaville 2-1 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North loser's bracket final at blustering Sacramento City College on Thursday night.
Davis must now beat Franklin twice at Sac City in order to claim the program's third North title since 2001, all under coach Dan Ariola. The veteran Blue Devils skipper was brimming with confidence after the latest Eckels gem. Ariola raved about Eckels (7-2) and the amount of arms the Blue Devils still have to challenge well-rested Franklin, the lone unbeaten team in this large-school event.
Relying on his fastball and slider, Eckels struck out 11, giving him 23 in two dominating performances this postseason. Santistevan, who beat Jesuit in a playoff opener, struck out four and allowed just two hits. The first one was a towering fly ball from Eckels in the first inning to right that got moved around by the wind and dropped in for a triple, scoring Bobby Young for a 2-0 lead. Young's ground-out RBI scored George Hatamiya.
"I love it," a grinning Eckels said of his performance, his team's drive and his team's chances in general. "We're going to play two games (today). And we're all going to school (today)."
Said Ariola, "It's fun to watch Ben pitch like that. He dominated. Nothing rattles him. He's given us two great playoff wins and he beat Franklin (late in the regular season) to clinch the league championship. And Elway, that kid is tough. It's a great win for us."
Davis certainly isn't short of motivation. Baseball has been a release for the real-world issues that have saddened the program, including the loss of Hatamiya's mother Nancy to lung cancer after a courageous year-long fight.
* Rams waiting - St. Mary's of Stockton awaits the winner of the D-I North after beating Buhach Colony of Atwater 9-1 at the University of the Pacific to clinch the South on Wednesday. The South concluded earlier than the North due to stadium usage conflicts later in the week. St. Mary's is in the section finals for the fifth time in six seasons and seeks a D-I three-peat, matching the feat of Elk Grove from 2005-07.
* Woodcreek surges - Woodcreek beat Rocklin 5-0 and 4-3 on Wednesday night at American River College, setting up an All-Sierra Foothill League D-II finale Monday night at Sac City with Granite Bay. Stephen Nogosek tossed a two-hitter in the 5-0 Woodcreek win and then came in to record the final out of the nightcap with a strikeout.
* Eagles' rarified air - El Camino swept four-time D-III champion Yuba City with a 5-1 clincher Wednesday to reach its first title game in any division. Mike Frantz tossed a complte game six-hitter with six strikeouts and Dee Kuwabara drove in two runs and scored twice for the Eagles, led by first-year coach David Brown. El Camino plays Rodriguez of Faifield on Monday at Sac City.
- By Joe Davidson
Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter: @sb_joedavidson