Nearly Two Years Removed From A 30-Win Section Title Season, Oakmont Baseball Returned From The Pandemic Led By A Young Wave Of Talent Ready To Face Anyone •
Kurt Marton saved his best fastball for last on March 30.
The right-handed sophomore pitcher on the Oakmont High baseball team heaved a throw to the plate and watched it run away from Granite Bay lefty Ryan Gallagher, a UC Santa Barbara commit.
Gallagher waved at the ball’s ghost, leaving a teammate stranded at first in the bottom of the seventh and awarding Marton his second win in two tries.
Oakmont erupted from the away dugout after Marton’s game-ending strikeout, and for good reason.
Marton carried Oakmont to an unlikely upset over a host Grizzlies squad that entered the contest ranked No. 19 in the SportStars NorCal Top-20 rankings that released the same day.
Granite Bay had rattled the initial release of Top-20 rankings by blasting then third-ranked Oak Ridge 10-3 on March 29. A day later, Oakmont added its own name to the mix.
“Our kids are not afraid of big games,” Oakmont baseball coach Paul Martinez said. “We have been pretty good ourselves for the last four, five, six years and we have been playing against good competition.”
Oakmont was 2-1-1 in a season shortened by COVID-19 last year. In the Vikings’ last full season, 2019, the team went 30-3 and swept the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. II playoff bracket. One of the Roseville school’s three losses was an extra-inning game against Central Section power and Tri-River League champion, Buchanan-Clovis (26-4).
Senior Mason Roane is the only leftover from that section championship squad. He singled and scored against Granite Bay, but the biggest moment at the plate surely belonged to senior teammate Ethan Gonthier, who until the top of the sixth inning was at most shagging balls from the Oakmont dugout.
Gonthier was tasked to pinch-hit with two outs and teammate James Blevin posted at third base. He belted a pitch well over second base to score the go-ahead run.
“When you pinch hit in a game, it’s one of the hardest things to do,” Gonthier said. “No one expects you to deliver, especially with two outs a runner on third.
“I just did what I know, put the bat on the ball, and it worked out.”
Gontheir, perhaps the tallest player on the field at 6 feet, 3 inches, earned a mixture of cheers and good-hearted ribbings for his performance.
“I know how big it is to get the go-ahead run and give some more momentum into the last inning for (Marton) to finish it up,” Gontheir said. “It’s definitely going to be a huge highlight that I will look back on.”
Marton ended with one earned run allowed across seven innings, allowing five hits, walking four and striking out three. It was only his fourth appearance on the varsity mound.
“It feels amazing, especially the hype after the game,” Marton said, still a little disheveled from all the shoves and hugs. “I just allowed our defense to do their thing.”
Marton also pitched a six-inning win over Roseville on March 23, Oakmont’s season opener.
Oakmont has lost games to Woodcreek-Roseville (Top-20 No. 20), Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove and Folsom (No. 15), but also upset No. 12 Rocklin on March 25, which debuted at No. 5 on March 19.
Adam Davies, Axel Castro and Oliver Brekke combined for the win over Rocklin on the hill. Davies, Brayden Murua, Anthony Lira, and Tristan Ogles belted two hits apiece in that game while Roane doubled and scored. Adam Reyes also doubled and knocked in a run.
The Vikings also beat Whitney-Rocklin 6-3 on March 31. Davies pitched five innings with two earned runs and four strikeouts to nab the victory. He also batted 2-for-2 with two runs in the win. Guys like Davies and Marton have their days, but this team isn’t driven by star power.
“We don’t have too many standout guys, but we play together well as a team,” Marton said. “Everyone on this team is really close.”
Granite Bay nearly rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth after a leadoff single by UNR-bound shortstop J.R. Freethy. He scored on an error and watched Thomas Meyer single to score Joe Plise, but Marton earned back-to-back outs with two runners in scoring position to end the inning.
Freethy later crushed a fly ball to the right field fence in the sixth inning, but a running catch prevented an extra base hit. It was about as close as Granite Bay would come to scoring again.
“I feel like we beat ourselves,” Freethy said. “I don’t feel like they beat us.
“They didn’t do anything overpowering, but we just couldn’t perform on our end.”
Marton certainly did enough. The 2020 Bay Area World Series participant throws a fastball in the low 80s and typically mixes it up with a solid splitter. He operated through the Granite Bay lineup nearly exclusively with the fastball, after having sporadic success with his splitter.
“He deserved to get out there and finish the game,” Martinez said. “He was just competing great and we were able to help him defensively.”
Marton is a former Maidu Little League all-star who spent some time with Coach Brett Hemphill’s Golden Spikes Baseball Academy. He’s picked up some recent games with the California Baseball Academy (Victus North), and pitched well in a Perfect Game Tournament in Arizona in early March. In early January, he competed with CBA in Texas.
It’s the kind of action eagerly supported by Oakmont in the wake of a shortened season.
“I think it’s awesome he has found a way to play,” Martinez said. “He came to me on several occasions asking permission to go throw in Texas a couple times, Arizona and even Florida.
“I’m like, ‘Go for it, man.’ He has done what he needs to do to get in front of people to showcase his skills.”
Marton trains with Oakmont baseball alum Alex Creel. His success comes without radar gun prestige, but he’s got a different edge.
“He’s just mentally tough, for starters,” Martinez said. “Kurt realizes who he is and he doesn’t try to be something he’s not.
“Kids at that age usually just try to throw hard at any cost, but Kurt understands how to operate within the framework of his body.”
It’s the kind of growth that Martinez loves to see as his players pick up the feel of varsity games. Marton and Reyes were freshmen on the varsity roster last year and fourteen players on the current squad should be back next season.
“The main thing is giving our guys the experiences they missed out on last year,” Martinez said. “We are getting these guys to grow up fast and develop continuity.
“Hopefully we will be much further down the road by this time next year.”
Marton said the squad is really tight, despite the lack of contests.
“We hang out a lot together and have really built connections,” he added. “We have a lot of energy that helps us get wins.”
Saving your best pitch for last will do that too.