Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top Ten Stories of 2013/2014

The firework stands are now erected in retail locations around Elk Grove. That’s the sure sign we are now into summer and it’s time to reflect back on the past twelve months of sports in our city. Most were memorable events took place on the field or the court, however this year, we had a handful of sports stories away from the competition, particularly our top story of the 2013-2014 school year:
1.    Sheldon Basketball Sanctions

The four-time defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions were hit hard by graduation and thus the door seemed open for many area basketball players to transfer to the Elk Grove Unified facility and try to keep the hardcourt program atop the heap.

The problem was the way those students, or more correctly their parents and some tournament team coaches funneled the boys to Sheldon.

Three of the prospective Huskies players were ruled ineligible for the entire season in November. Two of them were making their second high school transfer and according to CIF rules, when you do that, you are ineligible for one entire year.

The third player, the CIF and Elk Grove Unified officials discovered in its investigation, played in the summer basketball program in 2013 while still a student at another EGUSD school.

The investigation additionally found four cases of providing fraudulent information to CIF and when Section commissioner Pete Saco came down with his ruling on Jan. 25, those boys were ruled immediately ineligible. They cannot play in a CIF-sanctioned game until Jan. 25, 2015.

The Huskies’ team was made ineligible for the post-season in 2014 and put on probation through 2016. Plus, the Section placed strict guidelines on how non-school teams use the Sheldon facilities in the future.

Sheldon head varsity coach Joey Rollings was suspended four weeks during the season.

       2.   Derek Hill Drafted First Round By Detroit Tigers

He was called the best centerfielder coming out of high school since Torii Hunter by Major League Baseball Network commentator Harold Reynolds. Derek Hill thrilled Elk Grove High School baseball fans for three years with numerous running and diving catches along with showing great speed on the base paths.

On June 3 he became our city’s first player ever drafted in the initial round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft right off one of our local diamonds.

In 2008, former Laguna Creek pitcher Casey Weathers was a top selection of the Colorado Rockies after his senior season at Vanderbilt University.

A few days later he signed a contract with the Tigers with a reported signing bonus of $2 million, thus forgoing a collegiate career with Oregon University.

Another ex-Herd player, J.D. Davis, drafted in the third round by Houston out of Fullerton State, signed with the Astros June 10 for a $780,000 bonus.

3.   Pleasant Grove Girls Basketball Team Is State Runner-ups

They were the 11th seed in the NorCal Girls’ Division I tournament, yet that didn’t bother the Pleasant Grove girls’ basketball team. They rolled through No. 7 seeded Monte Vista, 56-54 in overtime and then overwhelmed the three-time defending NorCal champion Berkeley squad, 51-42, on March 21.

In 2013 the Eagles’ boys squad won the Division I CIF State Championships. The hope for another State title at Pleasant Grove was dashed a week later when they lost to Canyon Valley.

What was amazing was how far the girls made it through the playoffs after being knocked out of the Section playoffs by Oak Ridge in the semi-finals.

4.  Joe Cattolico Resigns As Pleasant Grove Football Coach

The only football coach Pleasant Grove had, Joe Cattolico, resigned his post April 4 after receiving word that Bruce Belden was hired instead of him as the school’s athletic director.

Cattolico made it clear he wanted the A.D. job after Jeff Caton announced earlier in the school year he would be stepping down June 1. The school decided they wanted Belden, a long-time special education teacher and former basketball coach at Florin.

Cattolico has made it clear he was open to coaching elsewhere in the area and thus far no one has officially hired him. Pleasant Grove has promoted former EGHS player and coach Jason Rossow from the junior varsity coaching staff to replace Cattolico. 

5.     Elk Grove Baseball Wins DVC, Section Div I North runner-ups

In his 15th season as the Herd baseball coach, Jeff Carlson fielded a very talented squad in 2014. With Hill, Oregon State-commit Nick Madrigal and his twin brother, Ty, leading the way, Elk Grove went on a 17-game winning streak, won the Delta Valley Conference title and took that momentum into the Division I North playoffs along with a 22-4 record.

But, the Herd lost to Rocklin in the second round of the double-elimination tournament to knock them down to the losers’ bracket. They battled back beating Franklin, Rocklin and Davis before bowing in the North Region championship game, 5-2, to the Blue Devils. Elk Grove’s hope for back-to-back Section championships was dashed.

Equally as surprising this spring was the fact Pleasant Grove, which entered the playoffs as Delta River League champions with a 21-4 mark, was for the third year in a row, eliminated from the post-season by Franklin. Like a year ago, the Eagles were sent home in the opening round game.

6.   Pleasant Grove Softball Is SJS Runner-ups For Second Year-In-A Row

Pleasant Grove had one of the most talented teams around in 2014 led by pitcher Celina Matthias, catcher Vanessa Washington and infielders Alexa McCoin and Marissa Maligad. Sheldon won the DRL championship this year, but Pleasant Grove was stronger in the post-season.

The Eagles eliminated Elk Grove in the opening round, beat Roseville later that day, but then lost to undefeated Vacaville, 2-1, in the quarterfinal game on May 19. That dropped P.G. to the losers’ bracket where they took on Sheldon. In a three-hour game, delayed for about 40 minutes by lightning; they beat the Huskies, 9-8, in an eight-inning thriller.

The next day Pleasant Grove once again beat Roseville and then defeated Rocklin on May 20.

The latter game placed the Eagles in the championship round against the Bulldogs.

In game one, Pleasant Grove handed Vacaville its only loss of the year, 3-2, but in the second – and the championship- game, the Bulldogs’ sophomore pitcher Katie Kibby shut out the Eagles, 3-0.

Last year, in almost carbon-copy fashion, the Eagles met an undefeated club, Vintage, beat them in the first finals’ game, but lost to them in the championship contest.

7.    Elk Grove Football Is Section Finalist, Again

Elk Grove once again touted one of the area’s top running games in 2013 and after losing just once in the regular season – to Franklin – entered the post-season as a favorite for the Division II title.

In 2012, in the middle of a driving rain and high winds, Elk Grove couldn’t stop Folsom in the Section championship game at Hornet Stadium. This time, though, Folsom was competing in Division I. That left D-2 wide open for a new champion.

Elk Grove struggled with Burbank and then had to pull out a furious comeback at Rio Linda to get to the D-II championship game.

The Herd’s quick defense bottled Del Oro for most of the first three quarters, led 19-0 going into the fourth quarter, but then couldn’t stop the Golden Eagles any longer.

Del Oro scored 20 points in the final quarter to win the Section championship, 20-19.

The turning point came on an onside kickoff where video showed the Del Oro players hit Elk Grove defenders before the ball reached the required ten yards. The Golden Eagles recovered and scored a few plays later.

That video clip almost went viral on You Tube. Later, game officials admitted to Elk Grove head coach Chris Nixon they made a mistake on the call.

The football season began on an ominous note, too. Arsonists burned down a shed containing most of the Herd’s field equipment. No arrests have been made in the case.
8.   Sheldon’s 4x400 Meter Relay Team 3rd At State Meet

As the track and field season progressed it was evident Sheldon had one of the area’s top sprinters in Taron Johnson. But, the Huskies’ Cameron Stone recorded the best 400-meter time in the entire state. 

The pair along with Marcus Beloney and Steven Edwards won the 4x400 meter relay race at the Section’s Div. I meet and was second in the 4x100 meter relay behind Woodcreek, the team that would eventually win the State Championship in that race.

At the Masters’ meet a week later, Johnson would lose the 100 meter dash by .003 of a second and the 200 meters by .006 of a second. Stone, though, won the 400 meters in 47.17 seconds.

The 4x400 team won the Masters and they were second, once again, in the 4x100 meters.

On to Clovis for the State Track Meet where the Huskies were third in the 4x400 meter relay, one of the best performances at that venue by local tracksters in a long time. In the preliminary heat for the 4x100 meters, they were flagged with a lane violation and were disqualified.

Stone ended up seventh in the 400 meters while Johnson couldn’t get out of the preliminaries in the 100 and 200 meters.
9.    Cosumnes Oaks Basketball Forfeits 16 Wins

With Sheldon reeling from sanctions placed upon its basketball team, Cosumnes Oaks emerged with the top boys team this past winter.

The Wolfpack were cruising along at 18-1 when all of a sudden came word that an ineligible player was a key part of almost all of those games. Section officials ruled that Cosumnes Oaks needed to forfeit 16 of those wins.

But, at the time the Wolfpack still had six league games remaining. They ended up winning all those contests and finished third in the Sierra Valley League, which under the Section’s new playoff format, was good enough to qualify for the playoffs.

Cosumnes Oaks, behind Alex Van Dyke and L.J. Reed, rolled right through the Division II bracket and were set to face high-flying Folsom for the Section championship.

The Wolfpack were overwhelmed by the Bulldogs in a game where the officials were frequently blowing their whistles. Folsom took a 79-62 win.

Two weeks later Cosumnes Oaks returned to the Sleep Train Arena floor for the NorCal Division II championship, and once again, they were turned back by Folsom. This time the score was 68-51.

Officially, the Wolfpack ended the season with a 16-19 record, but just three losses came on the court.

 10. Joey Banks Finishes Fifth At State Wrestling

Joey Banks has been Franklin’s top defensive football player the past couple seasons. His play on the gridiron earned him a National Letter-of-Intent to Sacramento State.

But, on the wrestling mat, Banks was equally as tough.

Banks went all the way to the State Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield undefeated as a 195-pound grappler. He won the Section Masters and was hoping to become EGUSD’s seventh state champion.

But, in Bakersfield Banks stumbled a bit. He lost in the quarterfinals to the eventual state champion, Ian Baker of LaCosta Canyon. He rebounded to win two more matches, including the match for fifth place.
He’s the second Franklin wrestler to place at the State meet. In 2010, heavyweight Peter Anguiano was third.

Honorable Mentions:

-Former Laguna Creek sprinter Deondre Batson, running for Alabama, won the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship at 200 meters
-Elk Grove sophomore Annastassia Ramirez won third place at the girls’ wrestling championships.
-Kyle Larson, a rookie on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, has had breakout season including a pair of Nationwide Series race wins.
-Todd Reiswig, named interim EGUSD athletic director in October, decided not to be the full-time replacement after Jim Smrekar officially retires in late August.
-Bradshaw Christian’s football team won the Division VI championship
- The EGUSD Board of Trustees decided to reinstate freshman-only teams in six sports beginning this fall.
-Laguna Creek basketball coach Paul Casey announced his retirement.
-Following three 20-plus win seasons, Monterey Trail fired girls basketball coach  Louie Corpuz.

 And, we said goodbye to former local athletes Josh Davis (Cosumnes Oaks), Mikey Lyttle (Elk Grove) and Jeremy Callaway (Elk Grove).

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