STOCKTON - From a 1-5 season start to competing on the final day of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, this turnaround baseball season will surely be remembered for years to come at Franklin High School.
The Wildcats of Elk Grove kept that theme in mind in digesting an otherwise difficult day, falling to state power St. Mary's 8-2 in Game 2 of the Division I best-of-three series Saturday afternoon at the University of the Pacific. In taking the series 2-0, the Rams of Stockton celebrated a large-school repeat, joining Elk Grove's run from 2005-07 as the only ones to accomplish such a feat.
St. Mary's in recent seasons has taken down tradition Sacramento-area powers Elk Grove (2010) and Jesuit (2011) and then the upstart section club of 2012.
On Saturday, St. Mary's (27-6) was sharp and Franklin (22-12) was not. The young Wildcats usedf three pitchers, had four errors, managed two hits through six innings and were a step slow against a senior-dominated Rams team that played one of the top schedules on the West Coast. Gio Brusa, the lone starter on the Rams' three-peat, had two hits and four RBIs.
"Great team," Franklin first-year coach Bryan Kilby said of the Rams. "They battled all day and did the little things and we didn't. We can't hang our heads. We've got a nice gorup. We battled all year. It wasn't out day. Four errors is very uncharacteristic for us, and bases loaded with no out and getting one run wasn't like us. But we had a great season."
Franklin placed third in the Delta Valley Conference behind Davis and Elk Grove and then beat those teams in the D-I North postseason, in addition to eliminating then Bee No. 1 Pleasant Grove. Of the 25 players in the Franklin dugout Saturday, 20 will return. Those bidding farewell include senior mainstays in pitchers Josh Pigg, Kyle Von Ruden and Brandon Keup.
An example of the Franklin drive and resolve came from Hank LoForte. The freshman shorstop and leadoff hitter spent three early morning hours in the hospital to figure out what ailed his stomach. He insisted on playing. He will return along with starters in Tyler Blake, Kyle Zanzi, Ryan Sarginson, Nick Frei and Connor Adams.
St. Mary's coach Pete Pijl had his game face on an hour before the first pitch. The veteran Rams coach known for his charm and candor away from the field got into the face of event coordinator Hal Steinback and barked about how the game is "for the kids" in contesting why Steinback was hesitant to allow a junior varsity player out of unifor in for free. At the Klein Family Field entrance, Pijl bumped into Steinback, long regarded as one of the region's most composed and classy coaches at Del Oro in golf and baseball. Steinback never raised his voice, though he did tell the coach to, "get out of my face."
Pijl was all smiles in victory, however, though he and Steinback did not shake hands during the banner presentation.
- By Joe Davidson