Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Like Father, Like Son - Larson Had Racing In His Blood

NASCAR Illustrated recently published a feature story on Elk Grove driver Kyle Larson and his father, Mike. The story recounts how dad, a big race fan, had son at the dirt tracks in Northern California at an early age. Mike recounts the quick rise to stardom in racing his son has experienced.

Mike and wife Janet still reside in Elk Grove.

Now 22 years old, Kyle is one of the top drivers in NASCAR's top circuit. He frequents advertisements for his race team's chief sponsor, Target. Plus, he's now a father. Young Owen was born in December.
A young Kyle Larson on his dad's shoulders

Last Sunday Larson finished 15th at the Toyota-Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Speedway. Larson has had one top five finish thus far this season and probably should have won the Michigan 500 two weeks ago, but pitted for fuel just moments before a big rain storm halted the race.

At the wheel of Chip Ganassi's No. 42 Chevrolet, Larson is competing this weekend in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona Motor Speedway. It's officially the halfway spot of the 2015 Sprint Cup season.  Larson is in 17th place in the Sprint Cup standings at this point.

Levin Update

It's been a while since we last checked in with Elk Grove H.S. 2003 grad Spencer Levin.

He finished in a tie for 48th last weekend at the Travelers' Championship in Connecticut. Bubba Watson was the winner of the event.

Levin is currently in 105th place in the FedEx points standings. In the 22 PGA Tour events he's entered in 2015 he's made the cut 13 times. He has five top-25 finishes and to date has earned $601, 824.
Spencer Levin

In recent months Levin has picked up a sponsor in Major League Baseball. He's seen on the course wearing a hat with the MLB logo on it and frequently wears clothing in the colors of the area baseball team.

Bradshaw Ranked Top D-5 Team In State

In its end-of-season rankings, Cal Hi Sports selected Bradshaw Christian H.S. as it's top baseball club in Division V.

The Pride has won the last three Sac-Joaquin Section championships in its division.

Head coach Drew Rickert, who also coaches football at the small school on Calvine Road, last month announced he's stepping down and will concentrate on just the football program.

Former Sheldon head coach John Misplay will take over. Last season Misplay was the pitching coach for the Pride.

Detrick In Alabama

Professional water skier Brian Detrick won't be around this weekend to shoot off fireworks in Elk Grove. He's entered into the Malibu Classic in Alabama which begins Friday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Briggs To Receive Key To City

Elk Grove News is reporting that the Elk Grove City Council will vote Wednesday on whether they will hand out a key to the city. The two names that will be lofted to city fathers are former Chicago Bears All-Pro linebacker Lance Briggs and professional water-skier Brian Detrick.

 [Update- The EG City Council did, by a 4-1 vote, approve the awarding of the Key of the City to Briggs. However, the Council deadlocked 2-2 (with Detrick's father, Steve - a city councilman- recusing himself from the vote) on approval for Derrick to receive the Key]

A year ago, in the City's first such honor, NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson was awarded a key.

The idea of Briggs receiving such an honor is a no-brainer. Since graduating from EGHS in 1999 he's been one of the top linebackers in football, first with the University of Arizona and then with the Bears. Recently, Briggs opened a BBQ restaurant in the city and for several years has been financially helping youth football locally with big donations to his alma mater along with holding an annual football camp.

His foundation annually purchases Christmas gifts for children in need in Chicago.

At first the notion of Detrick getting a key was a head scratcher, until I thought about it for a while. Like Larson, Detrick is at the top of his sport at a young age. The 2007 EGHS grad is ranked in the top ten worldwide in waterskiing and his accomplishment in his sport is unmatched by any one ever from Elk Grove.

Larson, likewise, is the first Elk Grove resident to ever reach the top rung of NASCAR. He was his sport's Rookie of the Year and though he has yet to win a Sprint Cup race, Larson has finished in the top five twice in the past month.

But here are three other Elk Grovians (is there such a word?) worth considering for future Keys To the City:

1. Stephanie Lopez-Cox
Easily the best soccer player to ever come out of EG. The 2003 EGHS grad helped Portland University to a NCAA Soccer championship and was a member of the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal-winning women's team in Beijing.

2. Bill Cartwright
Old timers who saw him play at EGHS in 1975-1977 say he was the best basketball player this region has seen. He was one of only two EG residents to ever be drafted by the NBA. The other one was Xavier Thames of Pleasant Grove H.S. two years ago.

Cartwright played alongside Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen helping the Chicago Bulls win three NBA titles before retiring. He's coached in the NBA and in Japan since.

3. Buck Martinez
He goes back many years but John Albert Martinez is Elk Grove's most accomplished baseball player. He spent 17 seasons with the Blue Jays, Royals and Brewers. He briefly managed the Blue Jays and Team USA but in recent years has been in the broadcast booth in Toronto.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Want A Unique Fishing Experience? Try Lake Michigan

The 30-foot Baja Cruiser slowly moves through the peaceful waters of the fishing harbor at Two Rivers, Wisc. It’s headed east into the expanse of Lake Michigan, one of the largest freshwater lakes in all of North America.

Sixty-two nautical miles wide and 307 statute miles long, the second-biggest of the Great Lakes chain offers one of the most unique fishing experiences anyone can imagine.  King and Coho Salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout and brown trout populate its waters in good numbers.

And as two of this craft’s fishing charter customers found out this particular June afternoon, the fish are big.

At the helm is the boat’s captain, Chad Kakes, who along with his brother Ed operate Shur-Katch Charters. When the craft passes the end of the harbor’s breakwater, the swales of Lake Michigan suddenly grow to between two and three feet high. 
Lake Michigan charter captain Chad Kakes 

Kakes turns the bow into the northeast wind and presses the throttle forward. The boat’s twin 350-cubic inch engines roar to life and the craft rapidly increases in speed. Everyone on board grabs something nearby to steady himself or herself as the craft cuts through the waves to a spot roughly three miles from shore.

A large video monitor directs Kakes to a place in 60 to 70 feet of deep blue waters where his customers have regularly caught fish. He cuts the engines down to a low purr and turns on the auto-pilot on a heading right into the 20 mph northeast wind.

Kakes and his first mate, Josh Rysticken, spring to work setting out into the water a fairly complex series of downriggers and planner boards.  Within a few minutes 12 fishing lines will be attached to this system of cables and lines.

At the end of each line is a lure presentation called a “fly dodger.” A piece of reflective aluminum roughly eight inches long is attached to the end of 50 lb. test braided line. Trailing roughly 24 inches behind is a jighead with a treble hook covered with a skirt of sparkled material.

The idea, Kakes said, is that the fly dodger looks like a school of baitfish with a small fish trailing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

EG Rec Soccer Boasts More Than 800 Players In First Season

It's a familiar battle amongst all youth sports. The kids and coaches (and parents) that really take the sport seriously and play very competitively and tirelessly versus the kids and coaches (and parents) that just want to play for the fun of it.

Then the board members of these youth sports groups try to balance the two directions and, at times, no one seems to be satisfied with how their league is operated.

There's no sport that doesn't deal with this dilemma. Unfortunately, it often causes divisions and hard feelings amongst their members. At times it's expected.  But, that’s the nature of the beast when it comes to organizing competitive athletics.

This kind of edgy situation has been brewing amongst Elk Grove's largest youth sports organization, Elk Grove Youth Soccer League (EGYSL), for a while. EGYSL has ruled the roost, so to speak, in the city when it came to soccer. Though they have several neighborhood clubs organize teams and take registrations in their region of Elk Grove, EGYSL has always held the fort overall. They have hundreds of recreational teams, select squads and even manage a traveling competitive organization, FC Elk Grove. 

EGYSL, claiming more than 6,000 participants, has grown to a $3 million operation complete with leased office space and full-time staff. They've been soccer to the city of Elk Grove.

But, finally a few members said they didn’t like the overall direction of EGYSL, had enough and decided to begin their own soccer organization. 

And, their goal: to just teach the sport of soccer to young people and have fun. Throw out the scoreboard. Let's just kick the ball around the field and let the kids have a blast.

Thus, the creation of the Elk Grove Recreational Soccer League (EGRSL).

Madrigal Drafted By Indians

Elk Grove shortstop Nick Madrigal was selected this week by the Cleveland Indians in the 17th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft. He was the 514th player selected overall.

Madrigal, a four-year starter for the Herd, batted .450 with 31 stolen bases in leading Elk Grove to the Sac-Joaquin Section's Division I championship.
Nick Madigal

Now, the decision for Madrigal will be whether to sign (and there will likely be an upper five- to low six-figure signing bonus offered for being selected in the 17th round) with the Indians or attend Oregon State University, where he is currently committed.

Other area players taken over the past three days of the MLB Draft include Tanner Dodson of Jesuit, selected in the 31st round by the Mets, Nick Sprengel of El Dorado, in the 31st round by the Nationals, and Nathan Lukes of Sacramento State, in the 7th round by the Indians.

In the pick immediately after Madrigal, the 515th overall, the Giants selected Cameron Avila-Leeper, formerly of Grant High School and this past season was the ace of the staff at Delta College in Stockton.

Last summer Elk Grove centerfielder Derek Hill was taken in the first round by the Tigers. He's now in the Midwest League with Western Michigan.

In 2013 Herd stars Rowdy Tellez and Dom Nunez were drafted. Both are in Class A baseball, Tellez with the Blue Jays' organization and Nunez with the Rockies.

Elk Grove's J.D. Davis was selected last summer by the Astros in the 3rd round after three seasons at Fullerton State. He's currently playing in the California League.

Monday, June 08, 2015

MLB Draft Underway

Major League Baseball's draft of first-year players is now underway. You can follow it HERE.

Interestingly there are very few Northern California players listed in Baseball:America's top 500
Nick Madrigal
prospects. Elk Grove's Nick Madrigal is ranked 180th overall. He's planning on attending Oregon State University next year, but a high draft selection may change those plans.

We'll keep you informed if anyone else locally gets a call from a MLB club.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Locals Shut Out at State Track Meet

For as positive the outcome was for local tracksters over a week ago at the Sac-Joaquin Section's Masters Track and Field Meet, the CIF State Championships this weekend in Clovis was, well, a big negative.

None of the Elk Grove-area athletes qualified for the final round at State, dominated once again by track and field stars from the Los Angeles and Southern Sections.

Pleasant Grove's girls 4x100 meter relay time did finish fourth in their Friday preliminary race and had a good time (48.17 seconds) but it was too slow to qualify for Saturday's finals. Cosumnes Oaks placed fifth in its heat. Pleasant Grove was the winner of this event at the Section Masters.

Sheldon's boys 4x100 meter relay squad, who placed first at the Section Masters, was fourth in its heat Friday and didn't make it to Saturday.

Natsumi McGee of Cosumnes Oaks and Rae'vyn Lawler of Pleasant Grove each ran the 100 meters in 12.22 and 12.23 seconds, respectively, but too slow for the finals in that event. In the 200 meters Lawler was eighth in her preliminary heat, while McGee placed sixth in her heat.
Cosumnes Oaks' sprinter Natsumi McGee

Franklin's girls 4x400 meters relay team was fourth in their preliminary heat, as was Cosumnes Oaks', but neither squads' time was fast enough for Saturday's finals.

Mishaye Venerable of Cosumnes Oaks placed 19th in the long jump with a mark of 16 feet, 11.75 inches. Amber Cook of Monterey Trail was 23rd in the triple jump.

Franklin's Phillip Fayne placed 12th in the high jump. His best leap was six feet, six inches.

There were a few Sacramento-area athletes that did make the finals on Saturday at Buchanan High School, site of the State Meet.

In the boys' pole vault Austin Laut was first with a vault of 15 feet, nine inches.

It was thought that Fiona O'Keefe of Davis who was very impressive in the 3200 meters at the Section Masters, setting a new meet record at 10:00.85, would be a favorite for a gold medal at that distance. She was good Saturday, but not good enough.

Destiny Collins from Great Oak almost set a state record by running the 3200 meters in 9:53.79, just one second off the mark. O'Keefe was second with a time of 10:01.14.

O'Keefe, a junior,  is a two-time state cross country champion.

Jurnee Woodward of Vacaville, who blew away all competition at the Section Masters, was second in the 300 meter hurdles (41.17 seconds) at State and then was eighth in the girls' 100 meter hurdles.

Tre'shon Woods of Roseville placed third in the boys' 300 meter hurdles with a time of 37.46 seconds.

Calaveras' Hannah Hull was ninth in the girls' 1600 meter run. She was about 13 seconds behind the winner.

Ross Walker from Del Campo was seventh in the boys' 1600 meter run.

Myles Ellis from Antelope was sixth in the boys 400 meters.

Fifth in the boys' 800 meters was Arturo Sotomayor from Roseville.

In the field events, Grant High School's huge offensive tackle Darrin Paulo, who has made a name for himself in both shot put and discus, did quite well in the shot. He was fifth with a heave of just over 59 feet, but 12 feet behind the first place heave.

Brandi French from Vacaville was fifth in the girls' shot put.

Vista Murrieta won the team championship at the State Meet with St. John Bosco and Chaminade tied for second. Carson was fourth.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Coaching Changes Galore!

School is out and while I'm thinking about my top ten sports stories of the 2014-2015 school year one item that has to be mentioned is all the coaching changes. I don't remember this many coaches leaving, fired or resigning in one year.

Recently, we've had quite a few around Elk Grove Unified.

James Murdock, the baseball coach at Cosumnes Oaks, resigned recently. Whereas A.D. Bill Kapp hasn't announced a replacement, one guy who almost took it was former Sheldon coach John Misplay.

Misplay, though, decided he would rather get back into coaching after a four year layoff by taking over the baseball job at Bradshaw Christian. Drew Rickert, who has been the Pride's only baseball and football coach, decided he wants to just coach football and thus resigned after Bradshaw's third straight Division VI championship. They've also been in the D-6 championship series five straight years.

Misplay, a great player in his home state of Wyoming and later played at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, was a key assistant under Jeff Carlson at Elk Grove during the 2005 and 2006 Section championship runs.  He coached for four seasons at Sheldon, got the Huskies regularly into the playoffs, then stepped away for a while. The past couple seasons he returned to the dugout and coached the pitchers at Bradshaw.

He'll keep his teaching job at Sheldon next year and drive down the hill to coach at the neighboring Christian school.

We wrote a couple weeks back that Larry Price decided to leave Florin High School for greener pastures (meaning greater tradition) at Elk Grove. He's getting a potent girls' basketball squad next year and in the seasons to come.

Haven't heard who will take over for Price at Florin.

The new boys' basketball coach at EGHS is a familiar name, Dustin Monday. He took over on an interim basis for Rudy Ortega, Jr. three years ago, was the Delta Valley Conference's Coach of the Year. But, when a permanent replacement was hited Mat Bradley was chosen over Monday.

Rosemont hired Monday and he took a very ordinary club and made them competitive in the Metro League last season. But, when the EGHS job became vacant a couple months ago,  Monday was once again selected.

In the athletic director's offices around EGUSD, Bob Levin is stepping down at EGHS and Seth Boyle, the school's lead teacher and former soccer coach, will take over.

As I reported earlier this week, Laguna Creek's baseball coaching job is still up in the air. It's Mark Nill's if he still wants it. He took over for Josh Lex on an interim basis in February.

Monterey Trail hired Robert Fields to replace Ken Manfredi as its basketball coach. Manfredi left "Team Trail" to take over for Jesse Formaker at Franklin.

Fields is from Sacramento but the past few years has been teaching at Patrick Henry High School in San Diego. He's a 2005 graduate of Dominican University.

"Coach Fields is excited and focused on continuing the great tradition and overall program success here at Monterey Trail High School," Mustangs' athletic director David Coronado said.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Nill May (or May Not) Return in 2016

The Laguna Creek Cardinals won their first baseball league championship in Division II this spring; it’s first league title in about 15 years, too.

When head coach Josh Lex, who played on the Cardinals’ Delta League championship squad in 2000, was suddenly dismissed from his job in February, things looked up in the air for the baseball program at Laguna Creek. But, longtime school coach Mark Nill stepped in and coached the Cardinals to a Metro League championship.

“We started the season with the goal of winning the Metro League championship. We did,” he said. “We wanted to play a little better during the season but we met our first goal. After that, as I told them, you play it one at a time. And unless you win the last one, you’re never going to be happy.”

Though the Cardinals were bumped from the Division II playoffs by American Canyon, there still is an upbeat atmosphere amongst the baseball program.

“I started two freshmen, started a sophomore, so it was a bit of a young team,” Nill said. “We started five seniors. They were all very important to the team. Four of them were all-league.”

Nill will have 12 to 13 guys returning in 2016 and Laguna Creek will probably be right back atop the Metro.

“Could be fun, could be good, could start things rolling again,” he added.

Up to this season, the Cardinals spent many years being the foot stool to the strong teams of the Delta and the Delta Valley Conference. Laguna Creek made the 2002 playoffs and then went on a 13-year post-season drought. This school year the Cardinals were put into the lesser-competitive Metro Conference and a revival seemed to come to the entire athletic program.

“Honestly, yes, it’s nice to compete for a Metro League championship, from that standpoint, we really like it,” Nill said.

Laguna Creek actually finished the league schedule tied with McClatchy and Sacramento so the three teams got together just prior to the playoffs to play a three-way five-inning round-robin. All teams were 1-1, so playoff seeding had to be determined by runs scored.

“That’s what the bylaws called for,” Nill explained. “We talked about it later and we think if there’s ever three (tied for the league championship) we should row-shambo or figure something else out.”

The Cardinals ended up getting the third seed.

Whereas Nill is optimistic the baseball future is bright once again, the question whether he’ll be back in the dugout as the head coach remains up in the air.

“I told my principal and my (athletic director) when I took the job, I would take it on an interim basis,” he explained. “When the season was over I’d sit down and do some reflection and make a decision at that point. I haven’t made a decision.”

Two EGUSD Alum Play In NAIA World Series

Two former Elk Grove area high school baseball players competed in the NAIA College Baseball World Series last week in Lewiston, Idaho.

Cameron Abrams, a 2010 graduate of Laguna Creek High School and played for the Tabor College (Kan.) Blue Jays and Mike Correa,  a 2009 graduate of Sheldon High School,  played for Faulkner University of Alabama.

Tabor was eliminated on the third day of the series going 1-2 overall while Faulkner was eliminated in the semi-final round going 2-2 overall.

Freitas Called Up To Triple-A

He’s bounced between Double-A and Triple-A baseball for the past three seasons and right now former Elk Grove and Cosumnes River College catcher David Freitas is up with the Norfolk Tides of the International League. He was promoted May 26.

In his second season with the Baltimore Orioles’ organization, Freitas has found himself mired in a farm system flush with catchers. He’s played in just 15 games thus far, 12 in Double-A Bowie and three in Triple-A Norfolk. Overall, he’s hitting .245 with a pair of home runs.

Earlier in May, Freitas was put on the seven-day disabled list.

David Freitas
He’ll continue riding some pine for a while as Orioles’ top catcher, Matt Wieters, begins a rehab stint with the Tides.

In 2013 as a member of the Oakland A’s system, Freitas played 29 games with the Sacramento River Cats.

Hernandez Close To Returning To D-Backs

Another former Herd player, pitcher David Hernandez, might be close to returning to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Hernandez, who underwent Tommy John surgery after eight appearances last spring, previously pitched on a big league mound on Sept. 29, 2013.

In two rehab outings with Class-A-Advanced Visalia, the 30-year-old righty threw two scoreless innings with one hit and three strikeouts. Manager Chip Hale said Hernandez would not necessarily need to pitch on back-to-back days before joining the Major League club, which could happen next week.

From 2011-12, Hernandez was one of the league's better setup men. 

Larson Gets A Top Five NASCAR Finish

Elk Grove Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson got his first top-five finish of the 2015 NASCAR season Sunday when he ended up third at the Fed Ex 400 in Dover, Delaware.

Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag with Kevin Harvick second.

The points earned Sunday moved him up two places in the standings to 20th.

"Our first good run of the year,'' Larson acknowledged. "Hopefully this will kind of transition into some momentum for us, for our team, and we can start getting some more top-five and top-10 finishes."

In his 12 Sprint Cup races this year, Larson has finished in the top ten four times.

"We were good for most of the race; we got off kind of midpoint of the race and got really tight,'' Larson said. "Then we freed up a lot and got better. Still weren't as good as we were in the beginning of the race there at the end, but I was able to line up in the right lines, it seemed like, those last three restarts and gain a couple spots each time.”

He’ll get an opportunity to take the checkered flag Sunday in Pennsylvania as the NASCAR Sprint Cup series races in the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at the Pocono Raceway.