Monday, March 30, 2015

Notes From The Boras

Day one of the Scott Boras Baseball Classic is complete, at least for me. I am doing the public address announcing on one of the two fields at the McAuliffe Baseball Complex in Sacramento, a volunteer thing I like to do annually because I always get to see the top clubs in northern California every year.

Here are some notes I took on Monday:

 - Elk Grove pitching held together on the Herd's first day. Alex Zalasky and Kevin Kyle beat Yuba City for a 5-1 win. Ryan Robards had a key two-run double for the big hit of the game.

In game two, Ty Madrigal tossed a complete-game five-hitter as the Herd beat Bellarmine from San Jose, 2-1. The Bells had the game-tying run on third with two outs in the seventh inning.

The teams that played Monday won't play again until Wednesday in the Boras, so Coach Jeff Carlson will have a day to figure out who will pitch in the semi-finals. Both Chris Martin and Austin del Chairo have injuries that likely will spell the end of their seasons.

Martin has an issue with tendinitis while del Chairo has a shoulder problem that could require surgery. Senior Justin Bejarano is also out for the year with a shoulder problem of his own. This may mean guys like Dylan Carlson, Robards or Eric Bolton may need to take on some additional responsibilities like pitching.

- The top individual performance on day one at the Boras was turned in by St. Francis' pitcher Jeremy Ydens. He tossed a complete game no-hitter at defending Section champion Davis, 5-0. Ydens fanned six and walked two while going the distance.

-Davis is really handicapped right now without the services of stud junior Ryan Kriedler. He's got an issue with his wrist and, according to his father, Mark, the doctors thought it best to give it complete rest, thus a cast on that arm to keep it immobile.

The elder Kriedler thinks the cast will be gone next week when the Delta League schedule begins.

- Mark and his radio partner, Whitey Gleason, are back on the air in Sacramento every weekday afternoon on ESPN-1320 (AM) between 2 and 6 p.m. "The Rise Guys", as they have been known since their days on KHTK in Sacramento during the morning hours and later on the air in the Bay Area, have teamed up with Derek Moore for a radio show that doesn't dwell on just the Kings as most of local sports talk shows.

Nor are the Rise Guys loaded with stupid comments or are self-promoting like most. Gleason has a great sense of humor and Kriedler mixes in well-researched, knowledgable insight for a radio program that covers the gamut of all sports, plus mixes in items about local colleges, too.

I will be doing a feature for the Citizen on the Rise Guys very soon. This has become the radio program I tune into every afternoon on my way home.

- Kriedler and I both attended Patrick Henry Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mark followed me through those hallowed halls about eight years after I left for junior high in Oklahoma City and high school in Denver, Colo.

We both follow the Oklahoma Sooners. Boomer Sooner!

-Pleasant Grove opens play at the Boras Tuesday at 10 a.m. against J.Serra of San Mateo

- Sad to hear Jake Rodriguez has quit playing professional baseball, but excited to read the former EGHS grad has gone to work at his alma mater, Oregon State, as an undergraduate assistant.

Rodriguez lost his dad, Tony, a fixture at EGHS baseball and wrestling events for several years, in June of 2012 while Jake was at Corvallis.

The suddenness of Tony's death really hit Jake hard. Though he was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2013 after his junior year at Oregon State, Jake played a couple summers in their minor organization, He just couldn't get his game going.

He batted just .128 in 51 games professionally.
Jake Rodriguez

EGHS pitching coach Joey Belotti told me Monday that Jake went home during the off-season, talked to his mother. Nancy,  and after discussing it with her decided to accept the offer from Beavers' head coach Pat Casey.

Returning to Corvallis also allows Jake the opportunity to earn his bachelor's degree.

Jake was one of the first four-year varsity baseball starters at EGHS. He possessed an amazing arm which allowed him to play just about any infield position. Catching was where he excelled. He also could hit the ball as hard as anyone.

I was at a game at Franklin H.S. during Jake's senior year and he hit a ball that towered easily over the left field fence and almost hit a couple soccer players playing a game on a field well beyond that fence.

I could be corrected on this, but I believe Jake has Elk Grove's highest career batting average.

- You can tell it's spring break and time for the Boras, hosted locally by EGHS Baseball. Retired Herd coach Dave Pinckney donned his uniform and was in the dugout as was former pitching coach Jason Jimenez and business department head (and former athletic director) Zach Leach.

Jimenez is now a detective with EG Police and his new schedule doesn't allow him to do much coaching. He pitched professionally with the Rays and the Tigers.

- It was great catching up with long-time Herd football coach Dave Hoskins today. He's now the offensive line coach at Christian Brothers, but still teaches a weight lifting class at EGHS, plus has a couple evening classes at City College.

Hoskins thinks CBS will be very good again this year. He's also proud of the fact he has a couple ex-Herd players still playing in the NFL. Kenny Wiggins just signed a two-year contract with the Chargers as an offensive tackle. Lance Briggs, who has been a perennial All-Pro linebacker with the Bears, is looking for a place to play for a 13th season.

Formaker Resigns at Franklin/Larson Hospitalized

Franklin High School announced earlier today via their Twitter account that nine-year boys' basketball coach Jesse Formaker has resigned.

Earlier this year, Formaker took a leave of absence while his young son was undergoing treatment for cancer. His assistant coaches took over the reigns for much of the later half of the year, while Formaker was with his son, yet still attended a few games as his schedule allowed. 

During Formaker's tenure as the Wildcats' coach Franklin won five league championships, were Sac-Joaquin Section finalists twice and he was named the coach of the year in the conference five times.

This year Franklin went 18-10 overall and finished in a tie for second place in the Delta League with Pleasant Grove after a 10-4 season.

Larson Hospitalized in North Carolina

Elk Grove NASCAR driver Kyle Larson should be released sometime Monday evening from a Charlotte, N.C., hospital after undergoing tests following a fainting spell Saturday in Martinsville, VA.

Kyle Larson
Larson was at an autograph-signing event prior to Sunday's STP 500 when he suddenly fainted. The 2014 NASCAR Spring Cup Rookie of the Year was airlifted to a hospital closer to his Charlotte home and doctors have been evaluating his condition.

The car's owner, Chip Ganassi, had Reagan Smith replace Larson Sunday in the driver's seat of the #42 Target Chevrolet after Larson qualified fifth for the race at Martinsville Speedway. Smith finished 16th. 

Ganassi added that all tests done on Larson thus far have come back negative.

The Sprint Cup series takes this weekend off, so Larson has the opportunity to rest and recover to get ready for the Duck Commander 500 on April 7 at Texas Motor Speedway. 

Larson has had two top-ten finishes in the past three races and is currently 24th in the Cup standings.

Friday, March 20, 2015

PG Wins First Delta League Game

You almost never see it – a balk in softball. On Friday evening, however, Monterey Trail pitcher Celestina Ruela made a windup and delivered towards the plate, but held up on pitching the ball. The umpire behind the plate immediately called a balk.

What made it such an unusual play was that Pleasant Grove had a runner on third at the time. That girl, Kianah Corey, was allowed to score and because it was the fifth inning and the Eagles were leading, 9-0, the game was over.

It was a walk-off balk.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before,” Eagles’ co-head coach Bob Book said.

It was special, though, for Pleasant Grove because it was their first Delta League win of the year.

The Eagles’ other co-head coach, Russ Pettis, says the 10-0 win was good for his club for several other reasons.

“The name of the game is pitching and hitting and you have to do both to be successful,” he said. “With a big squad this year I did my best to get everyone playing time and see some live pitching.”

That’s to an eight-run first inning, Pettis was able to empty the bench, throw all three of his pitchers and cruise to their seventh win of the year overall. Sierra Gonzalez drove in the first two runs with a triple. Emily Martin and Cheyenne Barritt each had two-run doubles.

“We had some blips (in the league opener, a 12-10 loss to St. Francis) and we didn’t hit the ball very well, had some errors and it kind of compounded everything,” Pettis said. “Their lead-off hitter, Danica Bailey, is phenomenal. We did come back, but there were some questionable calls, but you can’t dwell on that. We have to hit the ball and that’s critical this early in the season.”

The Eagles (7-3, 1-1) have a big week coming up with six games. They have Elk Grove and Grant in Delta League contests then they participate in the Stephanie LeDoux Tournament in Roseville.

Quick Hits ...

Had a great talk this afternoon with Pleasant Grove first-year baseball coach Rusty McLain (yes, he spells his last name this way...he made certain I spelled it correctly). I will have a special feature with Rusty in this Friday's Citizen. He's quite a guy and has the Eagles playing very well. They looked pretty good in beating Bella Vista Friday, 5-1.
PG's Rusty McLain

The Scott Boras Baseball Classic starts a week from Monday at McAuliffe Fields. I will be doing the public address on one of the fields for two games a day. Always look forward to that. Great baseball expected March 30-Apr. 2.

Talked to former Laguna Creek baseball coach Josh Lex today. He didn't talk about the reasons why he was dismissed from the job with the Cardinals, his alma mater, two days before the first practices this spring, but he was in good spirits, watching PG and Bella Vista. Someone needs to hire this outstanding young man.

Also, we're waiting to hear where former PG football coach Joe Cattolico will land. He's still teaching at the school, but I hope he makes an announcement soon about his coaching future. In an era where everyone wants to spread the field offensively and throw, Joe will bring a tough ground game and stuff it down your throat. He's a winner and a great guy to have at any high school.

Track and Field ...

He was Monterey Trail High School’s All-State running back. Trey Nahhas, who gained almost 2,600 yards this past fall on the gridiron, showed on March 14 his athleticism once again at Mark Macres Stadium.

This time he had a pole vault in hand and he easily won that event in the annual Mark Macres Track and Field Invitational.

Nahhas outdistanced all others with a vault of 12 feet, six inches.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Urps Transfers To EG; Husky Invitational Track Saturday

As if Elk Grove's baseball team needed another outstanding player, a bit of a gift in the form of an outstanding infielder arrived on Coach Jeff Carlson's doorsteps on March 10 unexpectedly.

Pleasant Grove junior Josh Urps transferred schools right after something happened - an incident no one is willing to comment on - and now he's trying to lock onto a roster spot with the Herd. Urps batted .325 his sophomore season with the Eagles and is considered one of the most promising players in the entire Delta League.

But, now he's at EGHS. The issue now is whether he'll be eligible to play. That decision is in the hands of the Sac-Joaquin Section of the CIF.

On the surface the chances of Urps playing looks very small for this year. First of all, he's already played in at least one game for the Eagles. CIF allows athletes the right to transfer schools, but they have to sit out the first 30 days of the season. The exception is if the family moves into the attendance area of the new school.

However, this one is a new wrinkle in that Urps has already played for Pleasant Grove this year. He was two-for-two with a double in a Pleasant Grove loss at Buchanan High School on March 7.  Plus, Section or CIF officials could see this transfer as being athletically-motivated. If that's the case he could be sitting out of high school baseball for a year.

Again, no one connected with either school will comment on this situation. We'll have to see what the Section officials say.

Husky Invitational Runs Saturday

Most area high school track and field teams will compete Saturday at the Husky Invitational at Sheldon High School. First event is scheduled for 9 a.m.

Off to quick start at the track teams from host Sheldon along with Monterey Trail, Franklin and Elk Grove. On March 14, those schools placed several athletes in the annual Mark Macres Track and Field Meet. Here is a link to the results of that event.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Grubbs Helps CSUS To Strong Start; Wilburn Shines At Menlo

In his freshman season playing baseball for Sacramento State, Bronson Grubbs is already making a mark in the outfield for the Hornets. Grubbs, a graduate of Pleasant Grove High School, has played in or started 15 of Sac State’s first 18 games.

Though he’s hitting just .178, his quickness is being shown by the fact he leads the Hornets with five stolen bases in six attempts.

He isn’t worried at all about his batting, either. 
Hornet OF Bronson Grubbs

“It is a lot different than high school, it’s a lot more exciting baseball,” Grubbs said. “I’ve been hitting the ball hard. I need to stick to the same approach (Coach) Reggie (Christiansen) teaches us every single at-bat and I’ve been hitting the ball.”

Despite the fact he was a shortstop at Pleasant Grove, he’s been primarily in centerfield at Sac State.

“I’ve been playing outfield the last couple summers, so I feel pretty comfortable playing outfield,” he said.

Grubbs wasn’t initially a scholarship player out of high school, but Christiansen liked him well enough to assure him of a roster spot if he walked on.  Grubbs turned down opportunities offered elsewhere to stay at home in Sacramento and that decision has proven to be a good one.

“I like the program a lot and I will do well here,” he said.

The defending Western Athletic Conference champions are 10-8 thus far splitting four games at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo last weekend. He thinks there’s a good chance the Hornets will repeat as conference champions and return to the NCAA playoffs for a second year in a row.

“We’ve got a lot of good pitchers on this year’s team,” he said. “Our defense is really good. Our hitting, well, we’re not a power team. We’re more of a line-drive-hitting team.”

This weekend they’ll open the WAC schedule with four games at home against Texas-Pan American.

Wilburn Pitches Menlo To Second Win

Former Elk Grove softball pitcher Kimberly Wilburn pitched seven strong innings last Thursday to hand Menlo College a 3-2 win over Hope International. That was just the second win this season for the Oaks, who picked up another victory Saturday and are now 3-11 overall.

In eleven appearances and seven starts thus far, Wilburn is 2-6 with a 7.50 ERA. 

Larson Places In Top Ten, Again

For the second week in a row Kyle Larson has finished in the top ten of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

After starting in 12th place at the poll of the Camping World 500 in Phoenix on Sunday, Larson worked his way forward to fifth place with 20 laps to go, but ended up in tenth place. The week before in Las Vegas Larson drove the #42 Target Chevrolet to an eighth-place finish.

“I worked hard all day to get a top ten,” Larson tweeted after Sunday’s race. “Not by best track so a top ten is okay, but we need to get better. Congrats to Kevin Harvick, you’re unreal.”

Harvick who won Sunday in Phoenix took the checkered flag in Las Vegas the week before. He’s now finished either first or second in the last seven Sprint Cup races.

Larson’s teammate with Chip Ganassi Racing, Jamie McMurray, was second Sunday.

This weekend NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series will race in the Auto Club 400 at Fontana, Cal.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Softball: EG, PG, Sheldon All Good, But C.Oaks Could Be The Best

Could the best high school softball team this season be Division II Cosumnes Oaks? They may not end up being the top club overall in the entire Sac-Joaquin Section, because Vacaville, the defending Division I champion, has several key players back this year.

But, in the city of Elk Grove, the Wolfpack could have the most talented group in 2015.

In the opening week of play Lynda Bettencourt’s girls came from behind to defeat Sheldon, 9-5, and a couple days later held down Franklin for a 2-1 win. Both of those clubs are figuring to finish in the top half of the Division I Delta League this spring.

Bettencourt, as she generally is when talking about her girls, is positive when evaluating this season’s club, yet stops a bit short of saying Cosumnes Oaks may be better than the rest of the Elk Grove Unified School District teams.

“Anything is a possibility,” Bettencourt said. “Our team is a fun team to watch. We’ve got speed, we’ve got all the workings of a championship team, and so I do believe the potential is there for us to be highly successful.”

The former Cal Bear is starting her fifth season of coaching at Cosumnes Oaks with one of her own, catcher Sabrina Scott, already signed to a National Letter-of-Intent to play for Scott’s former mentor, Diane Ninemeier, in Berkeley.

“I know she is looking at (Scott) for her diversity at the plate and versatility as a player,” Bettencourt said. “She can catch and play outfield. I know (Ninemeier) is looking to her to come in and make an immediate impact behind the plate.”

In her junior season Scott battered opposing pitching with a very good .475 batting average that included three homers, a triple and eleven doubles. Scott also knocked in 26 runs.

She’s one of five seniors on the Wolfpack roster this year. All five are playing in college next year.

Now in the Capital Valley Conference, Cosumnes Oaks has to finish in the top three in the Conference in order to qualify for the post-season. Bettencourt says that could be a tall order.