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Elk Grove Citizen

Herd Lose Championship in Extra Innings

May 29, 2024 05:11PM ● By Alejandro Barron

The Granite Bay Grizzlies celebrate their walk-off win in the eleventh inning in the Division II Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game against the Elk Grove Thundering Herd at Sacramento City College on May 24, 2024. Photo by Alejandro Barron

ELK GROVE, CA (MPG) - In the bottom of the eleventh inning with the Division II Sac-Joaquin Section Championship on the line, the Elk Grove Thundering Herd was ready to send it to the twelfth inning against the Granite Bay Grizzlies. 
The reason being, they had Russell Pettis on the mound under the bright lights of Sacramento City College in a tie game at 3-3.
Pettis had starred all season alongside the other starting pitcher in the Herd rotation, Ned Frutchey, who also started the championship game.
A runner ended up on third base due to a leadoff walk, followed by a sacrifice bunt then a groundout to second base to allow the runner to advance. 
With two strikes, Pettis seemed he was going to get out of this inning. The previous inning, Pettis got out of a bases-loaded jam to keep the game alive. 
The unexpected happened when Pettis tried to get the Grizzlies' batter to go fishing on a pitch outside that was bounced. The Herd’s catcher, Evan Gentil, did everything he could to throw his body in front of the pitch. 
The pitch went to the backstop and Gentil rushed back to get a throw to home plate to get an out and preserve the tie game. 
Pettis was there at the plate as the runner came running down the line. It was a perfect feed to make it a bang-bang play. 
The runner got his hand in as Pettis tagged the runner high on his chest with the umpire not hesitating and calling the runner safe. 
The Elk Grove Thundering Herd lost the Section Championship on a walk-off wild pitch by a score of 4-3 to the Granite Bay Grizzlies, allowing them to clinch their third consecutive section title.
“It’s tough; it was a dogfight game,” Herd head coach Joe Bellotti said. “It didn’t go our way and that play at the plate is tough. It’s bang-bang and that’s just how it went.” 
Before heading into extras, this game began with Frutchey for the Herd on the mound with his counterpart being Texas A&M commit Chase Bentley for the Grizzlies. 
Frutchey was met by a rude awakening in the bottom of the first inning with Bentley helping his own cause with a towering two-run homerun to get the Grizzlies ahead 2-0. 
After this, Frutchey would settle in to go on to pitch six innings while allowing two hits, two earned runs and six strikeouts.
On the offensive side, the Herd started off threatening as Bentley struggled to find the zone with a walk and hit by a pitch to start off with Ethan and Chase Groves, but Bentley settled in to get out of it and pitch six innings. 
Not without any hiccups, though, with the Herd pushing a run across to cut the deficit to 2-1 when Troy Taylor led off the inning with a walk then came across to score after an RBI double down the left-field line from Anthony Bascherini. 
The Grizzlies would answer in the third inning to extend their lead to 3-1 until the sixth inning in Bentley’s last inning on the mound.
Frutchey as the second batter of the sixth inning walked and came across to score on a two-out RBI triple from Taylor down the right field line to make it 3-2.
The next half-inning in the bottom of the sixth, Frutchey would retire the side in his last inning of work to give his team a chance in the top of the seventh. 
Facing elimination, the leadoff hitter in the inning, Bascherini, would swing at the first pitch to give him a single, but it was hit sharply enough that it was misplayed by the Grizzlies center fielder to put the tying run in scoring position. 
A sacrifice bunt from Tristen Bartlett advanced the pinch-runner for Bascherini, Devin Mitchell, to third and brought Ethan Groves to the plate. 
Ethan would hit a flyball into centerfield at a comfortable enough depth to allow himself to start celebrating down the line heading toward first as he brought Mitchell in to score to tie the championship game in the top of the seventh. 
Pettis would come into the bottom of the seventh inning to strike out the side and send it to extra innings and would go on to pitch four shutout innings. 
This wouldn’t come without difficulties, though, with Pettis getting out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the bottom of the tenth. 
He struck out a Grizzly for the second out, then a dramatic lineout to right field had the Herd holding their breath and the Grizzlies celebrating, yet it ended up caught to send it to the eleventh. 
The Herd also rallied but came up short when, in the top of the eleventh, Julian Arguello singled, followed by back-to-back errors from the Grizzlies defense to load the bases.
With no outs and the infield drawn in to try to get the force out at home plate, Gentil would hit a scorching line drive to first base that was met by a loud pop of the glove of the Grizzlies’ first baseman. 
It was caught by Bentley, the starting pitcher, who was then moved to first base to play defense, and the batter who had the huge hit early on for the Grizzlies. 
The worst part of it all for the Herd was Bentley turned around and stepped on first for the double play given the huge lead the runner on first took with the infield drawn in. 
With two outs, the Herd couldn’t capitalize to take the lead, and the following inning the Grizzlies walked it off to win the Section Championship. 
“We were one swing away and it was going back and forth and as the game went on, I think the pressure can start building a little bit, but I think our guys did a great job of competing,” Bellotti said. 
Bellotti afterward praised the performances from both Frutchey and Pettis on the mound. 
“Ned and Russ both pitched their butts off for us; they did great through the adversity and they never blinked and found ways to get out of jams to give us a shot,” Bellotti said. 
The Herd hadn’t reached this instance since 201,7 in what was legendary coach Jeff Carlson’s penultimate season at the helm. Bellotti was able to bring them back although they could not add to their 11 section titles. 
“This is the goal of where you’re always trying to end up and I thank the seniors for the work they put in and I think we’ll have a good young group coming back,” Bellotti said. 
Despite the loss, the Herd will play in the CIF NorCal Baseball Championships as the No. 5 seed against the No. 4 seed Kingsburg Vikings. 
“I can’t say enough good things about this group of young men. You tip your hat off to Granite Bay; they did a great job but our guys battled their butts off,” Bellotti said.