By Joe Davidson
A month ago, Tyler Blake wasn't sure how many innings he would pitch this high school baseball season. Or how effective he would be.
He has a pretty clear indication now.
With the 6-foot-7 junior lefty looking fit and focused and his teammates smacking 10 hits, the Franklin Wildcats belted rival Elk Grove 9-1 on Saturday afternoon in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North playoff game at Sacramento City College.
Blake rested a tender pitching elbow most of the season, tossed a complete-game 4-0 shutout against Grant to help secure a playoff berth and looked even better here. Blake threw six consecutive shutout innings in negating a Thundering Herd lineup known to light up all comers.
Blake wasn't overpowering with just two strikeouts, but he was beautifully effective. Yet there he was running back and forth on the warning track, between the foul poles, after the Wildcats of Elk Grove improved to 3-0 in the postseason for the first time. Turns out the conditioning drill is mandatory for all pitchers, win or lose.
"I'm tired but I feel good," said a winded Blake, who also had two hits and drove in a run. "I love pitching and this team. Glad to be back on the mound."
Josh Pigg had a two-run single and Kyle Von Ruden had a three-run triple to highlight a six-run Franklin third inning. Von Ruden earned the win in an opening 6-2 playoff victory over Vintage of Napa and Pigg was the winning pitcher in an 11-5 effort against Pleasant Grove on Wednesday.
Now the Wildcats have a sudden surplus of arms. They will face another familiar foe Tuesday night in Davis, which tied Elk Grove for the Delta Valley Conference championship. Franklin finished third, though it did have wins over Elk Grove and Davis.
"The guys are playing well," Franklin coach Bryan Kilby said. "Tyler Blake was phenomenal on the mound, Pigg had a great game at the plate, Kyle was unbelievable (at second base) and his three-run triple was a back breaker."
* Davis 4, Vacaville 3 - Hayden Duer had a no-out, walk-off hit in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the Blue Devils, who moved to 2-0 in this increasingly tense tournament that has featured surprise blowouts and outcomes. A junior designated hitter batting seventh, Duer pumped after his fist as Davis overcame three errors and used a double play in the Vacaville eighth to avoid the loser's bracket.
"That was a great game," Davis coach Dan Ariola said.
Davis received strong pitching from starter Matt Trask, who allowed no hits and left with a 3-2 lead in the third, and Reinert Toft, who struck out five and allowed two hits. Vacaville starter Deandre Casovia struck out four and walked four. Chris Gnos, Bobby Young and Ben Eckels each had an RBI for Davis.
Vacaville beat two-time defending North champion Jesuit 3-2 in a playoff opener on Wednesday and now plays Elk Grove on Monday night in an elimination game. Davis opened this event with a 5-2 victory over Oak Ridge with Eckels striking out 12.
* Granite Bay 4, McClatchy 3 at American River College - Devin Lehman had the go-ahead RBI single in the fifth inning and Gabe Meza tossed two close-out innings for the Grizzlies, who took Game 1 of the best-of-three Division II series. Lehman had six RBIs in an 11-3 opening-round win over Del Campo on Friday.
* Rocklin 9, Woodcreek 0 - Austin Dick tossed a complete-game four-hitter with four strikeouts and one walk, and Timberwolves pitchers hit eight batters in the other D-II three-game series opener.
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