Friday, May 27, 2016

Herd Win SJS Div. 1 North With Two Wins

Maybe it's because baseball coach Jeff Carlson has been there and done that ten times before, but Elk Grove came into Sacramento City College's Union Stadium Friday night with a real confidence that they would beat Sac-Joaquin Section Division I top-seed Oak Ridge two times in the North Section championship.
Just ask Riley Lamb.
"I was beyond confident," he said. "I knew if we just showed up, we'd win."
The Herd used solid pitching, timely hitting and quality defense to beat the Trojans, 6-2, twice, to put themselves into next week's Division I final against Tracy at the University of the Pacific.
The guy who was key to the clinching win in the nightcap was pitcher Christian Scott, who for the first time ever pitched six consecutive innings of baseball in high school.
Elk Grove won its 11th North Division I championship Friday
"It was a memorable experience," Scott said shyly.
He allowed just two runs and ... hits to help Elk Grove wrap up its 11th North Section championship. Scott knew Thursday he and Dylan Carlson would be called upon to start on the mound.
"Dylan and knew it would be our turn and we'd have to do it to wrap this up," Scott said.
Carlson threw a complete game in the opener on Friday. Alex Zalasky came on in relief of Scott to pitch the seventh inning of game two.
The only rocky inning Scott encountered was the second inning where Oak Ridge scored two runs and had the bases loaded but Carlson, who played centerfield in game two, ran down a screaming line drive for the final out of the inning.
"I just tried to keep my composure," Scott said. "I knew I had a great defense behind me  and they made some plays."
Scott has been watching Herd baseball since he was little hoping for his chance to contribute to a championship. Friday night that came true.
"To fill this role and pitch a pivotal game was great for me and I just loved it," he said.
Three double plays turned by shortstop Josh Urps and second baseman Aaron Wong helped Elk Grove greatly in the second game.
Friday marked the fourth straight year the Herd played in this game.
"You see how you did it and then go back to that when you prepare for the (North Section Championship)," Carlson said.
He also claimed that playing a tough non-league schedule of schools with good baseball programs also prepares the Herd for nights like Friday. In the first game, Elk Grove faced Oak Ridge ace Trenton Denholm who was 10-0 with a 0.55 ERA, having surrendered only two earned runs all year. But, in the third inning Erek Bolton doubled off the leftfield fence to drive in two runs for the Herd off Denholm. And, for the first time this year, Denholm didn't last an entire game.
"When we see a big (NCAA) D-one guy like we saw tonight, we won't be scared," Carlson explained. "We've seen those guys early on in the preseason so it's nothing we haven't seen."
Now, there's one more hurdle between now and Elk Grove's tenth Section championship in baseball. It's the Tracy Bulldogs, who wrapped up its first-ever South Section championship Friday by defeating St. Mary's, 6-4.
The Bulldogs and the Herd played once this year and that was in the opener of the Scott Boras Baseball Classic in March. Tracy won the game, 5-4 in eight innings.
The pair will play in a best-two-out-of-three series beginning Friday at 7 p.m. at Klein Family Field on the University of the Pacific campus in Stockton. Game two will be Saturday at noon with a third game, if necessary, to follow.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Secton Champions, Again! Sheldon Beats Tracy, 2-1

Taliyah Miles was kind, cordial and looks you right in the eye when you talk to you. On the pitching mound, it’s a different story. Just ask the batters of Tracy, Gregori, Chavez and all the other teams that fell victim to her blazing fastball during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
Or for that matter, ask the batters she faced during a 14-0 run of Delta League play or any assortment of non-league opponents that were brave enough to face this year’s Sheldon squad.
On Thursday, Miles was her usual self, keeping batters off balance, collecting easy fly balls and ground balls for her teammates to field. Throw in there a few strikeouts and the junior lefthander was leading her team to a second consecutive Section championship. This day Sheldon needed several key defensive plays behind Miles to wrap up a 30-2 season with a 2-1 win over Tracy.
Taliyah Miles allowed just five runs in five playoff games

Miles had allowed just one hit through the first six innings and the furthest any Tracy runner got was second base.
In the seventh, though, Miles needed some help from her defense and they came through – in a big way.
The inning started by Tracy getting just its second hit of the game. Miles then walked one and with runners at first and second, a single was stroked to center. Up came Jaciana Vasquez with the ball and wisely threw to third baseman Shea Moreno to tag out the runner trying to move from first to third rather than try for a play at the plate.
With one out then the next batter stroked a crisp ground ball right down the third base line and Moreno made a nifty backhanded grab of the ball and threw out the batter at first for the second out.
Then the next Tracy batter stroked a Miles’ fastball up the middle. Sheldon second baseman Maci Fines dove to stop the ball from going into the outfield and quickly hopped to her feet. The Tracy base coach was sending his runner at second home to try to tie the game. Fines threw a bullet to Huskies’ catcher Jessica Scott who applied the tag. The runner was called out and the championship celebration was underway.
Miles said afterwards she had every intention of wrapping up a win in that deciding seventh inning.
Mary Jo Truesdale with the 2016 Section Championship banner, her 7th at Sheldon
“I knew my team would have my back no matter what,” she said. “Tracy is probably the best competition we’ve seen out here. They wanted to go to a second game. I knew this was going to be a real championship game.”
Miles, who had an older sister play at Sheldon, was looking forward to this moment since she was a young girl.
“I’ve been wanting this opportunity since I was eight,” she said. “I’ve been preparing and wanting to have that moment – the seventh inning, get that last out and everybody just so happy because I helped win the Section.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Season's Over: Elk Grove Loses To Del Campo

It's been quite a spring for Amanda Buck. The Elk Grove High School softball coach barely threw out the first pitch on the season when she had to take a few weeks off to give birth to a baby boy. Former head coach Jeff Alexander filled in quite well, thank you, and the Herd started its march back to the Sacramento Softball Complex, site of the Sac-Joaquin Section's playoffs.
Those few weeks off actually turned into just a few days. Buck just couldn't stay away too long from the softball dirt.
"I enjoy being out here and I love this team," Buck said. "This team was young and I think they learned a lot. They grew in just a couple months and I am proud of them."
Elk Grove coach Amanda Buck
The Herd finished in second place in a competitive Delta League and was handed a number nine seed in the Division II playoffs. Just last season Elk Grove was the runner-up to Benecia in D-2. This time, the road was a bit tougher.
Elk Grove lost last Saturday to No. 1 seed Rocklin, 1-0, but came back in the losers' bracket of the double-elimination tournament with big wins over St. Francis and No. 2 Roseville.
Wednesday they needed two wins to return to the D-2 finals, but in the early game that evening Elk Grove just didn't have much offense against pitcher Brea Larsen and Del Campo and exited the post-season with a 3-2 loss. Miranda Rodriguez and Miranda Menees-Miles drove in Herd runs. Elk Grove finished with a 18-12 record, a mark Buck said was okay.
Now, she'll take the summer to be a mom to her two girls and son and return in the fall as a P.E. teacher and softball coach. She expects Alexander to be in the dugout with her.
"We'll lose a big pitcher/catcher duo (Courtney Riley and Jazmine Moreno) that had a lot of chemistry together," Buck said. "If we can find something comparable, we'll be okay."
And, figures to be around Elk Grove long enough to coach her girls.
"I have one seven years old and she's playing (softball)," Buck said.

Whew! Robards Lets Out Huge Sigh of Relief As Herd Rebounds For Win

Ryan Robards has had quite a senior year at Elk Grove High School. He led the Delta League football teams in just about every offensive category except for passing. He set school records in rushing and scoring. Robards had the kind of season any running back would dream of.
Then here comes baseball and he's right in the middle of the batting order, in right field and is the team's closer. His team wins the Delta League championship and to get ready for the playoffs a couple of his football teammates gave him a haircut that is right out of the comic books.
In Wednesday's Sac-Joaquin Section North Division I consolation final, he was called out of right field to pitch and close the game with Woodcreek. The Herd led the Timberwolves, 3-2, at the time.
A couple guys got on base, one on a high chopper that went about thirty feet in the air and landed down the left field line as though it ricocheted off pavement. Robards took it all in stride. He looked in for a sign from catcher Erek Bolton as he began to face Tyler Malone. Robards threw a fastball to Malone and then...
Riley Lamp was the Herd's starting pitcher Weds.
"I knew I didn't put it in a good spot and then when he hit it, I knew it was gone," Robards recalled.
Malone hit a moon shot that just cleared the right field fence at Sacramento City College's Union Stadium. The Timberwolves and their fans went nuts. They were leading the defending Section champions, 5-3.
"There's one out and I'm thinking, 'Can I even get out of this?'" Robards questioned. "I was so frustrated, I didn't know what to do about it. I didn't want to show it much, I knew I had a chance to hit in the next inning."
Head coach Jeff Carlson had to come to the mound to visit the highly emotional Robards.
"I told him, 'Just get us out of the inning,'" Carlson said. "We had a chance in the bottom of the inning to get those runs back."
Robards did exactly what his coach wanted and the game went into the bottom of the final inning.
Elk Grove led off with the top of the order and Mason Breiphol. All Robards wanted was a chance to bat.
After Breiphol worked a walk out of Woodcreek pitcher Joey Pankratz and Aaron Wong flied out, Dylan Carlson took a low and inside pitch and drilled it to the left field wall. Breiphol sprinted around the diamond and made it 5-4, Woodcreek.
Then it was time for Robards and some redemption.
"I was a little jumpy, but I swung at it and it got in on me a little, so I took a shot at it," he described.
Robards also looped the ball down the rightfield line, just fair. Carlson scored easily and the game was tied. Any chance of being blamed for a horrible, sour ending to the baseball season was lifted off Robards' shoulder. Now, he had the opportunity to score the game-winning run.
After the Timberwolves brought in relief pitcher Cody Lindsey. Josh Urps was intentionally walked because first base was open. Then it was Riley Lamb's turn. He was the starting pitcher and did a solid job for six innings. He had the chance to win it.
He hit a sharp ground ball to third and they got the force play at the third base bag and Robards was out. Now, there was two outs.
Then it was Kevin Kyle's turn for the role of hero with Urps standing on second base.
Coach Jeff Carlson has a strategy session with his baserunners in the 7th inning
The designated hitter went after Lindsey's first pitch and drilled a one-hopper to the leftfield wall, Urps scored the winning run and the celebration was on. Robards went from potential goat to winning pitcher.
"We have a tendancy to do that, we wait until the seventh inning," Robards said. "In the seventh inning we're a different team, I guess."
Now, the Herd is back in the familiar role of playing for the North Division I championship. It will be played Friday at 4 p.m. at Union Stadium. Elk Grove, coming out of the losers' bracket in this double elimination tournament, must will two games against #1 seed Oak Ridge to go to next week's Section Division I championship series at University of the Pacific.
Robards admitted afterwards his emotions in that final inning on Wednesday were really up and down.
"I am just so glad my teammates picked me up," he said. "Now we've got Oak Ridge for two more games and we can extend our season."
Big sigh. He's glad his high school athletic career didn't end on a sour note.
"It would have been a rough night," he claimed.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Local Athletes Shine At Section's Div. 1 Track Meet

The rain clouds were ominous to the north, but that where they stayed all night. An occasional drop of rain was felt over Thunder Stadium as the Sac-Joaquin Section held its Division I Track and Field Championships there Friday night. A brisk south wind turned the short hurdles and the sprints to the north rather than its typical direction.
Despite the grayness in the sky, track and field athletes still did quite well this night in a tune-up for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Championship coming up next Thursday and Friday. The top 12 times/marks will advance from this meet to the Masters, which basically makes the Divisional meet a chance for track teams to accumulate points. Ten points were handed out to first place finishes and points were earned down to the 8th position.
Sheldon's Isaiah Brooks, finished 4th in the long jump
As is typical in recent years, those points generally were earned by athletes from Davis, St. Francis and Jesuit, but the Franklin girls and Monterey Trail and Pleasant Grove boys did pretty good in the point count.
First place medals were earned by Franklin's James Tillis in the 400 meters, Pleasant Grove's MacLean Connor in both the 110 meter and the 300 meter hurdles, Sheldon's Tai McDonald in the 100 meters and Monterey Trail's Myles Pruitt in the high jump. Franklin's Boys 4x400 meter relay team also was a first-place winner.
Pruitt just recently signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at the University of Iowa. Coaches saw some great potential in this Mustang, but he's hoping he can continue his jumping career with the Hawkeyes track team.
"I want to major in engineering and communications and minor in business so I'll be in school for eight years," he laughed.
Myles Pruitt, who won the high jump

Pruitt's leap of 6-2 Thursday was good enough for first place in the high jump for this meet, but he has gone as high a 6-6, second best mark in the Section. In practice he likes to wear a 15-pound vest to improve his performance.
"It makes me feel like I'm light," he laughed.
But, Pruitt fouled a couple times in the triple jump competition and ended up in 20th place, so he won't be competing in that event at the Masters.
"I changed my strategy and messed up," he admitted.
Tillis, wearing his chartreuse spikes and matching arm bands, looked the roll of a thoroughbred easily winning the 400 meters in a time of 48.40 seconds.
"I started wearing this color since freshman year and it's become my trademark," he said.
He actually began running hurdles his freshman season, but was hurt and switched to the 400 meters during his recovery and found it the right length of race.
Elk Grove's Madison Wong setting the starting blocks for the 4x100 meter relay
"You get out hard the first 100 (meters), then go into my 'float' and kick it all in the last 100," Tillis explained.
A junior, Tillis thinks he stands a good chance to qualify for the CIF State Track Meet in two weeks.
"I think if I work hard, I'll get it," he claimed.
Some second place finishes by local kids included Franklin's Girls 4x400 meter relay team, Adrianne Bautista of Monterey Trail in the triple jump, Jacob Cornelio of Elk Grove in the discus, Janessa Moses of Sheldon in the shot put, McDonald of Sheldon in the 200 meters, Cecily Montanez of Franklin in the girls 300 meter hurdles and James Hampton of Pleasant Grove in the 100 meters.
Records set Friday night included Jurnee Woodward of Vacaville in the 100 meter hurdles (13.88 seconds) and in the 300 meter hurdles (41.31 seconds). She also won the girls 200 meter dash.

Division II Track

Cosumnes Oaks won the 4x400 meter race at the Section's Division II Meet Friday, held at Bella Vista H.S.
Clinton Spellman of Laguna Creek won both the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thursday at the Playoffs: Huskies' Softball wins, Baseball Loses

The weather was much more hospitable for fans and players Thursday evening, even for the snakes. There was a snake delay (no kidding!) during the second inning of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I softball game between Gregori and Franklin.
The shriek, "Snake!" came from the Gregori dugout at the Sacramento Softball Complex and girls were scurrying out of onto the field. The umps called time-out to take a look. Franklin head coach Jill Sanchez, coaching in the nearby coaching box, was seen backing away.
"Jill doesn't do snakes," she said later.
Gregori's catcher May Johns came right over, knelt down and had the head of the serpent, then had to pull the rest of the snake from under a board lining the bottom of the dugout. She then carried the snake down the fenceline to a weeded area lining the diamond. Upon her return to the plate Johns was greeted with a rousing round of applause.
It was Gregori's night and the No. 6 seed prevailed over the Wildcats, 5-3.
Jordan Sarnecky

After about a five minute delay, the game was resumed. Franklin battled from being 2-0 down taking the lead at 3-2 in the fifth. Kaylee Moore and Courtney Jack each had an RBI single in that inning to tie the game. Mackenzie Vega drew a bases-loaded walk to briefly grab the lead. But Gregori's Nicole Stewart had a RBI double and a RBI single to lead her team's attack.
Sanchez had to console starting pitcher Taylor Keinath who came to the plate in the top of the seventh with the tying runs on the bases and struck out on a pair of pitches at her ankles. But, overall, Sanchez was pleased with the way her girls competed this year.
"We competed," she said. "We overcame some controllable and some uncontrollable things this year. I am just very please with how they played this year."
Gregori (16-6) which won the Modesto Metro League with a perfect 12-0 mark this year, now advances to a Saturday showdown with Vacaville. The Wildcats end the year with a 10-15-1 mark, but looking forward to a return to the playoffs next spring.
Franklin coach Jill Sanchez
"I lose only one senior," Sanchez said. "I am very confident we will be more competitively in league. Our three freshmen came a long way this year."

Sheldon 10, Chavez 0

The batting of Maci Fines, Juju Malana and Maddy Ayers led the No. 1 seed Huskies to an easy five-inning win over Chavez on the opening day of play in the SJS Division I tournament. Head coach Mary Jo Truesdale, despite the ease of victory, wasn't pleased with the number of pop flies her girls hit Thursday.
"That's something definitely we'll work on during practice tomorrow," she promised. "You won't win big games if you continue to hit the ball up. You are always happy with a win here, but we need to continue to focus on the little things."
Vanessa Porto had three RBI's while Ayers also drove in three runs on a pair of doubles.
The Huskies will take on Oak Ridge at 9 a.m. Saturday as the double-elimination portion of the playoffs begin.


Woodcreek 8, Sheldon 3

Matt Manning walked a season-high six batters as the Huskies first visit to the playoffs since 2010 ended in the opening round.

Vanden 5, Laguna Creek 3

Petey Torres had a pair of triples including a run-scoring three-bagger in the 8th inning to lead Vanden to a Division II playoff opening win. The Cardinals, the Metro Conference champions, are out in the first round in its second consecutive playoff appearance.

Bradshaw Christian 11, Gustine 3

Looking for their fourth straight Division VI championship, the Pride got the playoffs off on the right foot with a big win over Gustine at Stagg High School in Stockton.
Michael Sinclair, Spencer Swain and Chase Chamberlain each homered. Sinclair drove in four runs while Chamberlain had three RBI's.
The Pride's next game will be Saturday at 3 p.m. against Mariposa.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Hot Wednesday: EG Softball & Baseball Win Playoff Openers

The external thermometer reading on the car: 101 degrees. Yes, confirmation this is the first day of the CIF Les Schwab Tires Sac-Joaquin Section's Baseball and Softball tournaments brought to you by Farmers' Insurance, Crystal Creamery, Wilson and a ton of other sponsors paying the bills so that our area high school athletes can say they have played in the playoffs. Sorry I am so cynical but I have to stand/sit in the heat at two of the hottest places to watch hardball - Sacramento Softball Complex and Union Stadium at Sacramento City College. I am still perspiring hours later. Thank you that the games were entertaining:

The sun was beating upon the empty bleachers of the Softball Complex. There were fans and parents watching Will C. Wood and Elk Grove open the Division II softball playoffs, but they were tucked up the spotty areas of shade. A few brave souls tried convenient close-in seats near the action but that didn't last very long. Still others were smart and brought an umbrella for artificial shade.

Despite all that Elk Grove found a way to win its do-or-die game against this MEL opponent in the Wildcats. It took nine innings before Elk Grove uncorked a five-run outburst and defeated Wood, 8-3.

"It was warm and we went through two 35-packs of water, but we had no heat issues and the kids hung in there," assistant coach Jeff Alexander said.

The Herd breathed a sigh of relief for their season almost ended in the seventh. In fact, Elk Grove was down to its final strike of the year. But, stepping up was sophomore Ally Hale. With two outs and two strikes on her with a potential tying run on second, Hale took a pitch a bit outside from Wood hurler Sarah Moorhead and slapped it down the left field line for a double that scored Jazmine Moreno from second and the game went into extras.

"I admire the way she swings the bat," Alexander said. "She uses the whole diamond well, likes to pull the ball, but she's not stupid to try to pull a ball which was off the plate, like that last one, and took that put it right down the third base line. The third baseman's eyes went, 'Oh, God.' She was giving us the line, late in the game, and it went right over the bag. It was a seeing-eye double."
Jazmine Moreno, who had a game-winning double in the ninth inning

A second hero was pitcher Courtney Riley who went the distance and scattered nine hits, striking out nine and walking no one. She drove in Elk Grove's first two runs with a first inning double and tacked on an RBI single in the ninth.

Riley claimed she ignored the heat but in the middle of the fifth inning she joined a few fans under the trees to gulp down a bottle of water. Cooled down, she returned to the circle and did quite well.

The third star went to Moreno, the Elk Grove catcher, whose double knocked in two eventual winning runs in the ninth inning. She had three hits on the day.

Alexander wants to see now more consistency from his team.

"We continue to show up, disappear, show up, disappear," he lamented. "If the starting nine, ten, eleven bring their bats and show up we'll run with (Rocklin)."

The Herd will now go on to face Rocklin, the top seed in Division II softball, at 6 p.m. Friday as the tournament now becomes a double-elimination set-up.

There is no one of the Haggin Oaks' Golf Links, set just south of the Softball Complex. One can understand why; the external thermometer reads 98 degrees and it's now 6:30 p.m. On to City College and hopefully arrive in time for Elk Grove baseball and its opening round game with Granite Bay. Must stop for a Suzie burger just off the P Street exit from Business 80 - and a Dr. Pepper. Filled and thirst quenched, onto the highway south. Sacramento fire crews are responding to what looks like a grass fire behind the sound wall near the 12th Ave. exit. Smoke slows traffic. 
Now to the west on 12th Ave/Sutterville Rd. and to City College. Parking is tight. Graduation ceremonies are underway in Hughes Stadium.

Maybe it was the fact Granite Bay was beaten twice on Championship Saturday last year by Elk Grove for the Division I North title, but the Grizzlies and head coach Pat Esposito, especially, seemed really wound tight. The opening round game at Union Stadium was frequently stopped by Esposito and his coaches questioning calls by umpires.

Not to be undone was Elk Grove's Jeff Carlson - always known to work the guys in blue - as he let his observation be made known.

Set aside a couple calls - or the interpretation of a play - and there was quite a pitching duel and well played game. Elk Grove, behind lefty Alex Zalasky, defeated the Grizzlies, 3-2, to advance into the double-elimination part of the post-season Saturday at noon against Jesuit.

Carlson breathed a sigh of relief that a couple calls made by the umpires didn't come back to haunt the Herd in the end.

"If one thing would have gone wrong, an error or whatever, and your season is over and you go home," he said. "You work hard all year long, win the league, and then you come out and lose a game and your season can be over real quick."

But, Carlson went the distance with his ace lefty to get the one-run win.

"He did a great job and had allowed only three hits up to the last inning," Carlson said. "He did a great job just like he's done all year. It was a classic, playoff outstanding job."

Zalasky threw a five hitter, striking out five and walking two.
Alex Zalasky, a complete game win for Elk Grove Weds.

One call Esposito asked for was on Josh Urps' sacrifice fly in the second inning. Ryan Robards tagged and scored from third in the fly ball and Riley Lamb who was on first returned to the bag, but Esposito claimed he passed second base and didn't re-tag the bag on his return. That had both coaches out on the infield pleading their case. The umps let Robards score stand.

In the fifth inning the Herd loaded the bases and Urps ground ball went to the Grizzlies' third baseman who threw home to force one runner. A relay throw to first sailed over first baseman Darren Nelson and went down the right field line. All Elk Grove baserunners scored, but Esposito came out to claim the throw that went awry went out of play under the fence in the right field corner. The guys in blue agreed and put Urps on second and Robards on third and, thus, only one run scored.

"The rule is that when a ball goes out of play you get two bases," Carlson said. "They claim Ryan wasn't at second base when the ball was thrown. I don't know, he had a lead, he was pretty fast, he set a touchdown record for Elk Grove. But, my issue is why does the outfielder go down to make a play on the ball, all of a sudden his hands come up?"

"He kicked the ball and every runner should have scored," Carlson claimed.

Pleasant Grove coach Dan Boyle thanked me for naming him Delta League Coach of the Year. He deserved it, I told him so. I hope the school rehires him. I am hearing Rob Rinaldi may return to the job. Either way, the Eagles will have a good coach in 2017.
The delta breeze has come up. It's much cooler only 78 degrees now at 9:15 p.m. Forecast calls for 80s on Thursday.
More playoff action coming up Thursday: Sheldon vs. Woodcreek in baseball at 4 p.m. Sheldon softball opens Division I action at 4 p.m. at the Softball Complex against Chavez, followed by Franklin at 6 p.m.
Congrats to Bradshaw Christian soccer. The Pride plays for the Division VI championship Saturday after a 1-0 win over Modesto Christian on Wednesday. Bradshaw will face Argonaut at 10 a.m. at Cosumnes Oaks H.S.