Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove can’t get big hits with runners in scoring position against Monarchs’ pitcher Jacob Erickson. It’s the third major tourney title won so far, but the players know the only title that really matters comes at the end of the season.
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When Jacob Erickson gets the call to start for the Mater Dei of Santa Ana baseball team, there is usually a championship on the line. That was the case Saturday afternoon at the University of the Pacific in Stockton as the Monarchs, No. 1 in the state, defeated Pleasant Grove of Elk Grove 8-0 score in the finals of the first Boras Baseball Classic.
One of the founding forces of the Boras Baseball Classic was to attempt to create a “mythical” state championship game featuring the best team from Southern California and the best from Northern California to face off for a title.
While organizers were able to get the best team from the South, Pleasant Grove won the north bracket after a series of upsets. The tournament also was lacking any teams from highly-competitive San Diego and only had three from the Bay Area, none of them coming from high-powered leagues such as the West Catholic Athletic League or East Bay Athletic League.
Still, for a first year, the Boras event did include many top teams from around the state and it was a plus to see CIF Central Section squads like Buchanan of Clovis and Stockdale of Bakersfield in the north instead of the south, which is where the CIF places those schools.
In winning the Boras Classic, after previously winning the National High School Invitational, Mater Dei (17-1 with a 17-game win streak after losing its first game to St. Mary’s of Stockton) also has given itself a leg up on being State Team of the Year should it win the CIF Southern Section Division I title. The Monarchs could still get passed for the No. 1 state ranking by a team such as St. Francis of Mountain View (if they lose a game somewhere down the line and the Lancers don’t) or Granada of Livermore (which would have to finish unbeaten and win the CIF North Coast Section Division I title). But the list of teams that can put together a final resume as good as Mater Dei now can is very small.
While happy to have won the NHSI tournament in North Carolina and now the Boras Classic, it’s clear the Monarchs have their eye on the CIFSS Division I championship after a surprising end to their season last year in the semifinals to Newbury Park prevented them from a trip to the finals at Dodger Stadium.
“That really hit us hard last year and this year we are going to make sure that doesn’t happen to us again,” said Erickson. “We thought we were going to go to Dodger Stadium for the CIF finals and all of a sudden one bad inning and we couldn’t regain momentum and that is always in the back of our mind.”
Held without a hit for the first two innings by Pleasant Grove starting pitcher Dalton Gomez, the Monarchs finally broke open a scoreless game in the third inning with five runs on three hits while the Eagles helped out with two errors and a wild pitch. The Monarchs added single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings as Jeremy Martinez, Davis Tominaga and Tyler Adkison drove in their final three runs of the afternoon.
Pleasant Grove (12-4) wasn’t without its chances to score runs as the Eagles had their leadoff batter reach base and a runner reach third base with less then two outs in the first five innings. In every key situation, Erickson executed strong pitches to get big outs. The left-hander has yet to give up a run in 19 innings on the mound this season.
“He’s doing a great job for us in very competitive games,” said Monarchs’ head coach Burt Call on his starting pitcher. “He’s gotten three championship games and hasn’t given up a run in any of the three. We call it the bulldog attitude where he’s going to fight to get outs and we made plays behind him while he made some clutch pitches for us. I don’t think he had his great stuff today, but he found a way to get outs and that’s huge in a game like this.”
“That’s why we call him the bulldog,” said catcher Martinez on Erickson being able to escape without allowing a run. “He somehow finds a way to get it done and bears down and gets the job done. He likes to pitch in the big games and he likes the pressure situation.”
“I’m just going out there to battle,” said Erikson on his performance. “Today I didn’t have my best stuff but I just kept battling and making pitches. They call me bulldog because I’m a competitor and my fight. We all want to see each other do well but at the same time we want to be in that rotation pitching. We are motivated to out-pitch our teammates.”
“I’m really proud of our team so far this season,” said Martinez. “Last year hurt and we don’t want to feel that same way we did last year. I believe this year we are going to keep that in mind throughout the season and win CIF this year.”
If they do, the Monarchs could end the season as not only the No. 1 team in the state but in the nation as well.
Mark Tennis contributed to this report.