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Eagles renew friendly rivalry

Sierra Foothill League powers clash, bring memories of all-star past in section semifinals
By: Kurt Johnson, Gold Country News Service
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There’s something about the kind of rivalry that leads to intense competition between the white lines followed by two teams sharing a pizza after the game. It’s the camaraderie that comes when family or friends square off in opposite dugouts. Friendships forged over years of competing on the same side have created just that type of relationship between the baseball teams at Granite Bay and Del Oro High Schools. Those two squads will get together at least two more times this season after wins in the opening round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs moved them into a head-to-head best-of-three semifinal series. Six years ago, a team of 11 and 12-year-olds from Lakeside Little League shared a special experience known to few youngsters. That major division all-star team raced through the competition at the district, section and divisional levels to reach the Western Region tournament in San Bernadino, one tournament shy of a trip to the Little League World Series. Those kids have grown up a bit since 2003, and have been split between two high schools. Most of them are now seniors at either Granite Bay or Del Oro, and almost all of them are still playing baseball at an extremely high level. Six (Trevor Trinidad, Lydell Moseby, Travis Israel, Teddy Bryant, Joe Mauro and Andrew Knapp) play significant roles for the Grizzlies, while three (Trevor Thomas, Michael Schnell and Casey Cox) are starters for the Golden Eagles. All are seniors, except for Knapp, who is a junior and who was the 11-year-old youngster on the Lakeside team. “It has been pretty neat the last four years each time we play each other,” said Dan Trinidad, the father of Trevor and the manager of that Lakeside all-star squad. “The parents see each other and stories about that all-star experience always come up. When we played each other last week, we hoped to see each other again with this three-game series at the end of some of these kid’s high school careers.” The long history between the players and their families, who have been playing ball together since before their 10-year-old all-star days, adds a little flavor to the intense rivalry that already exists between Del Oro and Granite Bay. “We always had a thing for beating Granite Bay,” Thomas said. “Because we know those guys over there so well, it makes it a little more fun.” “It’s kind of fun that the kids know each other personally,” said Granite Bay coach Pat Esposito. “After we played each other last week in a huge 3-2 game, you look out and see four or five of our guys talking and laughing with four or five of their guys. You would not see that after a game with another league rival.” It seems clear that the Little League experiences prepared these players well for the stepped-up level of competition that comes at playoff time. “We actually first noticed something unique about this group when we had them as 10-year-olds,” Dan Trinidad said. “There were never too up over a win or too down when something went wrong. They got along so well, with zero conflicts on the team.” Nothing about the bright lights of the section semifinals can compare to the spotlight these players have already seen. “We got to San Bernadino after winning every game in the divisionals at Rocklin convincingly, including a 12-1 win in the championship game,” Trinidad said. “We were surrounded by ESPN and the local television people and everyone expected us to win. Then we get to the field and there are thousands of people there.” A change in the schedule had Lakeside facing the hometown team in its opener, and most of the huge crowd was cheering for the team from San Bernadino. “(All-star coach and former major leaguer) Lloyd Moseby told us he did not see a crowd that large until he got to AAA,” Trinidad said. “We were blown away by it, and we ended up two games short of Williamsport.” Both coaches agree that this week’s games will likely go to the team that gets the best performance out of its pitchers. Del Oro seems set there, with Mason Magleby and Cole Perez both likely to get a call. Granite Bay has had some injuries to its pitching staff, and will need to lean on a committee approach. “We’re not sure yet who will throw game one,” Esposito said. “With the injuries, we are going to have to gut it out a bit and get tougher.” “It will be a big challenge,” said Del Oro coach Bret Lachemann. “It will come down to pitching and defense. If we go to a third game, it could turn into a slugfest.” Whatever the outcome, the close relationships these players still share will make this a special series. After enjoying great success together in their early years in the game, everything has come full circle. “For me, the familiarity is comforting,” Esposito said. “I told our guys that we need to understand this is a different level now and it is going to be a war. “I think the familiarity increases the rivalry,” Lachemann said. “These kids have been playing against each other for a long time. By the time the series is over we may have played them six times (this season) including a possible five of our last six games. It will be an exciting series I think.” The first pitch for game one is set for 5 p.m. Monday at Sacramento City College. Game two will be played Tuesday at 5 p.m. with game three (if necessary) immediately following. The winner of the series will play for a section title on Memorial Day.