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Elk Grove Citizen

Herd Reach Section Championships

May 23, 2024 03:37PM ● By Alejandro Barron

The Elk Grove Thundering Herd celebrate their walk-off victory against the Whitney Wildcats to even the series 1-1 in the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Section baseball playoffs on May 15, 2024. Photo by Alejandro Barron

ELK GROVE, CA (MPG) - With their backs against the wall, the Elk Grove Thundering Herd held on to their section championship aspirations with an extra-inning 7-6 win over the No. 1 seed Whitney Wildcats at home on May 15. 
The Herd came out of the gates swinging as they tacked on four runs in the first inning, totaling six runs by the end of the fourth. 
“There’s a sense of urgency and we’re grinding for hits, so we were able to string some together early on and get some runs across,” said head coach of the Herd Joe Bellotti. “All we’re doing is getting to tomorrow with an opportunity.”  
The first runs of the ballgame came off the bat of senior Ned Frutchey with a deep drive into centerfield that bounced over the bounce for two RBIs on a ground-rule double. 
The two other runs of the first inning came on a triple from senior Troy Taylor to give his team the 4-0 lead and a chance to even the three-game series. 
It seemed that the Herd was going to cruise to a win to force a game three and even the series at 1-1 as ace Herd pitcher Russell Pettis was dominating. 
At the end of the fourth inning, Pettis had gotten outs through soft contact, whether groundouts or flyouts with no danger from the Wildcats offense.
It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Wildcats got on the board with a home run against Pettis.
In the sixth inning, the Wildcats’ lineup batted around for a total of five runs to tie the game at 6-6. 
Pettis, an ace for this Herd pitching staff, would go 5.2 innings pitched while allowing nine hits and six earned runs, which led to the 6-6 tie in the sixth inning. 
“I didn’t think he had his best stuff, but him battling and competing for us gave us all the opportunity we needed, and for him to eat up all those innings in a game like this where we didn’t have to kill the bullpen it was big,” Bellotti said. 
Sophomore Tristen Bartlett came in during the sixth to stop the bleeding, as this could’ve spelled out the ending of the Herd’s season. 
Bartlett got a strikeout to hold off the Wildcats and would go on to pitch 2.1 innings while allowing two hits and no runs with two strikeouts. 
“He’s (Bartlett) has been doing this for us all year as a late-inning guy, and he’s a guy who likes the ball in his hand, and it wasn’t always pretty but he competes and when you compete and give us a shot that’s all we can really ask for,” Bellotti said. 
In the bottom of the eighth inning with one out, a double from sophomore Anthony Bascherini was followed by an out, which led to two intentional walks back to back to load the bases. 
“We got a big at-bat from Bascherini hitting that double to start that inning to put pressure on them to make some decisions, then Ned (Frutchey) had the good at-bat to finish it off,” Bellotti said. 
The walk-off hero for the Herd was Frutchey, who drew the walk to win the game, which was met with a mild celebration but they knew they had another game to win. 
“We’re battling, it’s the end of the year and we got guys banged up, but guys are giving it their all and that’s all we can do,” Bellotti said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and obviously we made it kind of harder on ourselves.” 
Bellotti praises his team for making plays when they needed to because he said there were many instances where his team could’ve rolled over. 
“We’re one game away from a section title game, we know where we’re at, we know we need to pull out all the stops and obviously we know they aren’t going to roll over and give it to us, especially at their place,” Bellotti said. 
In an elimination game the next day, the Herd came from behind a 4-1 deficit in the fifth inning to tie up the game, which led to a run in the sixth and two runs in the seventh for a 7-4 win. 
The Herd will play in the section championship game for the first time since 2017 against the Granite Bay Grizzlies at 6 p.m. Friday at Sacramento City College.