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.

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