Hillmen plow past River Valley in sectionals

Mason strikes out nine, Sanchez pounds grand slam
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Writer
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SACRAMENTO ? As Ryan Mason delivered yet another strikeout in the fourth inning his smile became increasingly hard to miss. The Placer High senior pitcher couldn?t control his enthusiasm any longer Thursday night at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Ballparks as the top-seeded Hillmen rolled to a 12-1, five-inning victory over No. 2 seed River Valley in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III tournament. ?It?s good to get a spot of six in the first inning. It makes you feel confident,? said Mason, who will pitch at Cal Berkley next season. ?Of course I?m playing with a smile on my face. The defense, everything went well tonight.? Mason, who is 8-0 on the season, struck out nine batters to help spark Placer in its first playoff appearance since 2009. The offense started out just as hot as Mason with a six-run first inning that was capped off with a grand slam from senior outfielder AJ Sanchez ? the No. 8 batter in the lineup. Sanchez?s shot looked like a high pop fly to left but a slight breeze helped pull the ball over the left field fence 323 feet away. ?I think we were just feeding off the momentum he (Mason) started off with in the first half,? Sanchez said. ?We were having fun in the dugout, keeping loose, just ready to bang because we were just ready.? All of the Hillmen reached base at least once and all but one had a minimum of one hit. Sanchez led all hitters with a 2-for-3 performance and five RBIs. Senior outfielder Kevin Giles was 3-for-3 with three RBIs and a double. Placer posted three more runs in the second and fifth innings. The Hillmen (19-7) will face a tougher test at 3 p.m. Saturday when their best-of-three series with Rodriguez (Fairfield) of the Solano County Athletic League kicks off. Rodriguez (20-8) dispatched Pioneer 8-3 Thursday. Sanchez (7-2) will get the start but Placer coach John Hilton?s biggest concern isn?t on the mound. ?I think it?s going to come down to the little detailed execution, being able to hit the sacrifice, being able to base run,? said Hilton, whose smile was just as big as Mason?s. ?One of the things we need to improve on tonight is our base running.?