Placer wins section title

Hillmen cruise past PVL rival El Dorado to claim first Sac-Joaquin banner since 1993
By: Todd Mordhorst, Journal Sports Editor
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SACRAMENTO — Matt Ross knew he’d be taking the mound at some point Monday afternoon. He didn’t know it would be with no outs in the second inning. The Placer High senior was happy to take the ball from coach Larry Prewitt after starter Anthony Amara injured his elbow in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game at Sacramento City College. Ross came up with a signature performance to lead the Hillmen to a 6-1 victory over El Dorado and their first section banner since 1993. “When he went down, I don’t think anyone panicked because me and Anthony are pretty much interchangeable,” Ross said. “ Before he left the game, Amara ripped a single into center field in the top of the first inning to give the Hillmen (20-8) a lead they held onto throughout the day. Placer thoroughly outplayed the Cougars, with whom they shared the Pioneer Valley League title. “I thought it was good enough just beating Oakdale (in the semifinals), but that’s nothing compared to this,” senior first baseman Spencer Zaputil said. “I played four years just for this and finally, in my last game, here it is. We played great today. We had contributions from everybody. I’ve really got to give it to Matt (Ross). He pitched a great game.” Ross wriggled out of trouble throughout the game. In the fifth, El Dorado mounted a serious threat as Roger Gadow reached on an error to lead off. Bobby Frost and Sam Hieb followed with singles. Ross got Tyler Galpin to hit a chopper back to the mound. He fired to home for one out and catcher Joel Thys nailed Galpin at first base to complete a huge double play. After a walk, Ross struck out Joey Smith to end the threat. “That was huge,” said Zaputil, who was a four-year starter along with Ross and Thys. “That was one of the best games we’ve played all year and it couldn’t have come at a better time.” Placer took advantage of some sloppy play from the Cougars to generate much of its offense Monday. Thys sparked the first-inning rally by hustling down to first base after a strikeout. El Dorado threw the ball away and Thys took second as it skipped down the right field line. Zaputil followed with a single, Griffin Quick singled up the middle and Amara knocked in the second run of the game with another basehit. The Hillmen tacked on two more runs in the fourth. Quick’s leadoff walk led to an RBI-single by Josh Klem. Matt Ryan added a single and Klem scored on a groundout by Jake Lopez. A single and a stolen base by Thys led to another run on an El Dorado error in the fifth. Matt Dougherty scored on a sacrifice fly in the sixth after leading off with a double to make it 6-0. El Dorado finally got on the scoreboard in the seventh as Hieb scored on a fielder’s choice. The game ended in controversy as Galpin appeared to score on a single by Smith. But the umpire called Galpin out after he did not slide into home, instead bumping into Thys. Amara struck out the side in the first inning. The junior walked El Dorado slugger Nick Weber to lead off the second, then walked off the mound after he heard a pop in his elbow on a curveball to Wesley Watson. The injury altered Prewitt’s plans, but he knew Ross would step up to the challenge. “Our gameplan was to have Anthony throw five strong innings and then bring in Matt,” Prewitt said. “Matt stepped up. They hit Matt around a little bit last time, but the bottom line is, he stepped up and did a great job.” Ross had been battered by the Cougars last month in a loss at Placerville. But his fastball was sharp and he mixed in a devastating curveball to lead the Hillmen to victory. “The two games we played them during the regular season, we didn’t play very well,” Ross said. “Today they were the ones making the errors. We jumped out to an early lead, I was feeling pretty good, Joel called a great game and I was able to locate my fastball.”