Thursday, May 30, 2013

St. Mary's vs. EG For SJS D-1 Title

Elk Grove will be trying for its fifth Sac-Joaquin Section Division I baseball championship under head coach Jeff Carlson this Friday and Saturday at Sacramento City College. Friday's game will begin at 7 p.m. at Union Stadium. Saturday's game starts at noon. If a third game is necessary, it will follow at about 3 p.m.

The last two times the Herd made it to the best-two-out-of three championship series the opponent was St. Mary’s of Stockton. The Rams will once again be the team standing between them and a Section championship this weekend.

In 2007, the Rams won the South Division I tournament for the first time in 24 years. They’ve owned the South Section in baseball since then.

St. Mary’s has won six of the last seven South titles, including the last five in a row. 
Coach Jeff Carlson, hoping to see his
Herd team win its 5th SJS title during
his tenure at EGHS

The Rams are looking for its fourth Section Division I championship in a row this weekend, a string that began the year Elk Grove was last in the title series, 2010.

It is a bit of a surprise that St. Mary’s won the South Division this year. It looked like Turlock would be the team to beat. In fact, after losing its season-opener to Lincoln of Stockton, Turlock won 26 consecutive games. Then the Rams defeated them, 6-4 in the playoffs.

To close out the South championship, the Rams had to defeat Turlock a second time and they did, 5-1, last Wednesday, as St. Mary’s ace pitcher Joey Caffese tossed a two-hitter.

The Rams are on quite a roll right now. They’ve won nine games in a row. At one time this season, St. Mary’s record was 5-11. One of those losses was a 10-1 setback at the hands of Elk Grove.

Since that time, the Rams have won 15 of their final 16 games.

Carlson isn’t surprised that the Rams will be their opponent in the championship series.

“I’m not surprised,” Carlson said after winning the North championship last Friday. “St. Mary’s is a good club. They won (their division), too. We’re going to have to play great baseball. We’re going to have to hit and to pitch.”

Elk Grove hasn’t taken home a Section championship banner since 2007, the last title of its three-in-a-row string. During that span the Herd won 18 straight playoff games, never tasting travel through the losers’ bracket of any double elimination, post-season series.

“Getting to the Section championship is hard,” Carlson said. “But, having that opportunity for your kids to get there is a great feeling.”

The talent Elk Grove had on those teams proved to be no fluke. Cody Allen and Andrew Lopez signed minor league contracts after the 2005 championship season. Allen spent just a couple years in the pros before returning to Sacramento and enrolled at City College to play football.  He set a few offensive records quarterbacking the Panthers the next two seasons.

Raymond Hernandez and Dwight Childs from the Class of 2006 are still playing in the minors – Hernandez pitching for the Diamondbacks’ organization, Childs catching for the St. Paul Saints in the American Association.

Josh Powers and Jamie Niley, also from the class of 2006 played collegiately at Sacramento State and UOP, respectively. Powers played one year in the Colorado Rockies’ farm system.

From the class of 2007, David Freitas, a pitcher/first baseman played at both Cosumnes River College and University of Hawaii. He’s now a catcher for the Oakland A’s Double-A farm team in Midland. 

Also on that club was current Long Beach State player Zach Miller.

The Herd’s last visit to the Section championship series in 2010 was something most Elk Grove fans want to forget. A couple rainouts, plus graduation ceremonies caused the North tournament to end several days after the conclusion of the South playoffs.

St. Mary’s pitchers were well rested, while Elk Grove’s hurlers had to perform on short rest. The result was the Section’s highest scoring series ever. St. Mary’s won the championship in two straight games, 10-7 and 20-13.

Elk Grove was down 13-1 in the second game and came back to tie the game at 13 runs apiece. Herd pitchers just couldn’t stop the Rams’ bats to force a third game.

Current Herd stars Dom Nunez and Rowdy Tellez were freshmen on that 2010 squad. The rest of the Elk Grove lineup include several young men that are now key members of their college baseball teams: J.D. Davis (Fullerton State), Jake Rodriguez (Oregon State), Will Soto (Sacramento State) and Colby Brenner (Long Beach State).

In 2013, Elk Grove’s pitching duo of David Smith and Mikey Wright will be called upon to once again spin their magic if the Section banner will return to the Cartwright Gym. Both have been rock solid thus far in the post-season with Smith tossing a four-hit, 13-strikeout performance at Pleasant Grove while Wright wrapped up the North Division crown last Friday in a six-hit complete game win over Franklin.

If the Herd has to go to a third game, it’s likely sophomore Ty Madrigal will be called upon. 

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