WEST VALLEY CITY – Battling a foot strain caused Granger senior Junior Zavala to vanish from the Lancer offense as the season wound down.
For three weeks, Zavala did not even hit because the pain he felt while running was just too acute to justify even sending him to the plate. Still, limiting Zavala against Northridge was not an option for Granger coach Garrett Clark.
Zavala was the team leader in batting average and also had the best win-loss record among the pitching staff. They needed every last thing he could contribute.
"There was no way I was keeping him out of the lineup today," Clark said.
The gamble paid off for Granger. Zavala proved to be a major difference maker for his team in a 4-0 victory over the Knights on Wednesday afternoon that helped the Lancers advance in the winner's bracket of the 5A baseball tournament.
Zavala pitched a complete game – striking out four batters and allowing just three hits. And he came up with a huge sacrifice fly that drove home teammate Gio Prado to break a scoreless fourth inning tie. Granger took a 1-0 advantage out of the inning and never looked back. The Lancers went up 2-0 in the fifth when Jose Magana took base on a fielding error and scored on a throwing error and took advantage of a pitching change in the sixth by tacking on a pair of insurance runs.
Clark said that Zavala deserved to enjoy this sort of solid all-around outing. But the senior downplayed his role in it all.
"The most important thing is my defense helped me," Zavala said. "I'm not a pitcher unless I have my defense."
Granger played the part of a second seed well. Once the Lancers got going, there seem to be little doubt they could find a way to close things out against Northridge.
The Knights did a good job defensively in the first five innings, with starting pitcher Vincent Vernier allowing three hits and one earned run while striking out a pair of batters during that stretch. But Northridge could not find the offensive spark it needed to help the defense out.
Clark credited his team's previous playoff seasoning with preparing them to put the hammer down.
"My seniors have been through it all for the most part," Clark said. "Most of them have started since they were sophomores, so they have experience."
For Granger, a shutout victory felt like a perfect way to close things out on a baseball field that will be razed with the old high school scheduled to be torn down over the summer.
To the seniors leaving it behind, this victory will be a symbol of how far their program has come from when Clark first took over.
"I know it means a lot to me," Zavala said. "This is kind of like another home to us I guess you could say. Now it's getting torn down. But at least we ended with a win."
This ended up being Granger's first win in three games versus a Region 1 foe this season. Previously, the Lancers dropped preseason games to Layton and Weber – falling to the Warriors 6-1 and the other Lancers 7-6 in eight innings.