After striking out the final De La Salle High batter, Granada pitcher Jacob Payne knew just who to turn to.
He approached his catcher, Jordan Thrailkill, with a big smile. The two hugged and savored a hard-fought 4-0 East Bay Athletic League victory over the visiting Spartans on Wednesday.
Payne fired a five-hitter, with seven strikeouts and two walks, as the Matadors won their 15th straight game to open the season, out-gaming the defending North Coast Section Division I champs.
This one was special for the Matadors (15-0, 5-0), who lost to the Spartans (9-5, 3-2) in the NCS semifinals last season and in the second round the year before.
"It was nice," Thrailkill said of the victory scene. "Payne's been throwing great all year. Catching him has just been fun."
Payne improved to 8-0 on the season, having allowed just two runs, one earned, over 47 innings. Payne and Anthony Olmo (6-0), along with reliever Ryan Flayler, have helped the Matadors shut out three straight EBAL opponents and four overall.
This time Payne won a pitchers' duel against the Spartans' AJ Puckett, who limited a potent Granada lineup to one run and three hits through four innings before it broke it open with three in the fifth. Thrailkill, who was 2 for 3, followed a Matt Richards one-out double with an RBI single. Ryan Kirby then blasted an RBI triple to center and scored on a belly slide on Casey Soltis' groundout to short.
Soltis also singled home Kyle Campiotti in the third, but Kirby was thrown out at home for the third out by center fielder Austin Lonestar.
"They're not afraid of the big stage," Granada coach Corrigan Willis said. "They relish it. They're taking on every challenger right now, which is what I like."
De La Salle coach David Jeans tipped his cap to Payne, who held De La Salle to a solo hit in the pivotal top of the sixth after the Matadors put up a three-spot.
"Their pitcher was money on the hill," Jeans said. "He threw three pitches for a strike, worked fast. He did a great job. Our pitcher did a great job."
Diablo Valley College's Mike Harris has signed with Sonoma State on the first day of the early signing period. The 6-foot-4 Harris, a 2011 Monte Vista High graduate, averaged 14.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and was an honorable mention selection in the Big 8.
Berkeley's Rachel Howard has signed with USF. The 5-10 Howard, who played on the Yellowjackets' varsity team for four seasons, was a second-team All-East Bay selection this year.
Bentley's Eric Sprague, a 6-8 senior hitter, has signed with UCLA.