St. Francis started the year at No. 1 and early returns aren't changing that thinking. What has led to the Lancers' early season success? We asked head coach Mike Oakland. Also, Vacaville has knocked off three Sacramento area powers and star pitchers are out in the East Bay.
St. Francis remains the top program in Northern California after capturing the 2013 Central Coast Section Division I title. It is off to a 4-0 start this year with wins over Palo Alto (4-3), Campolindo (2-0), Elk Grove (2-1) and De La Salle (2-0). The Lancers have gotten strong pitching in the early going highlighted by Cal State Fullerton signee John Gavin.
"We're not as offensive as we were last year. We've pitched the ball well and played pretty good defense," St. Francis head coach Mike Oakland said.
Over 11 innings, Gavin is 1-0 with just one unearned run allowed. He has issued three walks to 12 strikeouts. Tyler Deason has thrown 10.1 shutout innings with wins over Campolindo and De La Salle. The Lancers are awaiting the return of Arizona State signee Richard Boe, who is out with an injury.
When asked about Gavin, Oakland said "John is excellent. He's going about his business the right way."
Offensively, the Lancers are getting good contributions from Tim Susnara and Blake Billinger with good starts from sophomores Jeremy Ydens and Andrew Martinez.
The Lancers face Pacific Grove on Saturday before starting West Catholic Athletic League play on March 18.
"It's a dog fight every year," Oakland said of the league. "It never gets easier."
News and Notes
Unranked Vacaville is off to a 4-1 start with wins over fellow Division I schools Woodcreek, Davis and Franklin-Elk Grove. The Bulldogs' only defeat came to De La Salle (10-3). Outfielder Cory McGuire has a home run and three RBI and outfielder Drew Chitwood is 5-for-8 and has gotten on base in 10 of 13 plate appearances. They have a non-league game against College Park on March 29.
Granite Bay went 2-1 at the Central California Showcase with wins over Clovis West (2-0) and Bullard (11-3). The Grizzlies lost to Clovis North (8-1). Senior ace Mitch Hart threw a complete game three hitter with three strikeouts against Clovis West in the opener. Hart and Vinny Esposito have a team high three RBI while Devin Lehman and Garrett Yocam are hitting over .300 on the young season.
De La Salle junior left-hander Justin Hooper got the start against Vacaville over the weekend and went 3.2 innings of no-hit ball. He had five walks and nine strikeouts. Fellow highly touted 2015 pitcher Joe DeMers went five innings of one hit ball in an 8-0 win over Heritage. He struck out five.
Teams should be wary of a first round matchup with Berkeley if Noah Bremer is on the mound. The Washington signee is 2-0 and hasn't given up a run in 19 innings of work. He has 34 strikeouts to one walk and has allowed just eight base runners. He threw eight innings with 12 strikeouts against Campolindo on February 25.
Valley Christian won the Mike Hazlett Tournament, which was sandwiched by losses to San Benito (2-0) and St. Mary's-Stockton (4-1). Senior Bryson Brigman is hitting .357 with three RBI and the Warriors have given up seven runs in five games. They will travel to Elk Grove (1-1) on Friday.