Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Seniors lead Elk Grove over Jesuit in section baseball

The 2016 CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I Baseball North Playoffs bracket is here.

Thundering Herd overcomes rough start

Josh Urps hits walk-off single in eighth

Walks doom Jesuit in last inning

It’s back to normal scheduling for this baseball bunch.

Graduation plans for Monday afternoon won’t be altered, adjusted or otherwise scuttled for the seniors on the Elk Grove High School team, a crew that collectively agreed that it would have reached for ball caps and uniforms over the chance to walk across the stage in caps and gowns.

On Saturday afternoon at Sacramento City College, an unsung senior sparked a rally, and two steady seniors sealed the deal for The Bee-ranked No. 1 Thundering Herd in a 6-5 victory over Delta League rival Jesuit in Sac-Joaquin Section Division I-North play.

Bryce Jamias produced a two-run, pinch-hit single in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie it 5-5, then Ryan Robards pitched a quick eighth in relief, and Josh Urps won it in the bottom of the inning with a single to left field in a game that made little sense in a sport that doesn’t always make a ton of sense.

Jesuit had strong pitching early and played typically stellar defense, but the Marauders loaded the bases on walks in the fateful eighth, allowing the defending-champion Herd life, and it pounced.

Aaron Wong, another senior, raced across the plate excitedly with the winning run, electrifying the Herd crowd and dugout. Dylan Carlson, the team’s senior leader and most experienced player, didn’t have to cross the plate after Urps since it was over, but he did so anyway out of sheer enthusiasm, and also to bear-hug Urps.

Urps, a standout shortstop, is the newcomer to the lot. He transferred from rival Pleasant Grove in the middle of last season, but his work ethic and personality fast made him a lot of Herd friends.

Winning games only adds to the fun now.

“It’s great to have that walk-off, because I’m still new here, but the guys have accepted me,” said Urps, headed to Sacramento State. “Now they might let me graduate on Monday.”

Urps said that with a laugh, and the Herd could exhale after an uncharacteristically sloppy early-game effort. Carlson started on the mound for Elk Grove and struck out five, but he walked three, departing after the fourth inning with a 4-1 deficit. Elk Grove also committed three errors.

“They bailed me out,” Carlson said of his mates. “There’s nothing better than winning a game like that, especially against a really good team like Jesuit.”

After the game, Carlson’s father, Herd coach Jeff Carlson, stressed to his club that this sport can be equal parts joy and despair, and to avoid getting too high or too low. He praised the comeback and urged the Herd to remain focused while still enjoying the game.

“It took everyone to win it today,” said Carlson, whose program seeks its ninth D-I North title since 2002 under his tutelage and seventh section title in that span. “You never know what’ll happen. I’m happy for Urps. He’s been outstanding, a great kid who works his tail off.”

Jesuit received strong early pitching from Cody Jensen, who struck out four and departed with a 5-1 lead in the sixth inning. Marauders center fielder Jared Alameida made a diving catch and doubled up Robards at second to preserve a 5-1 lead in the fifth, and second baseman Darren Baker had three hits for the Marauders, who play the Monday elimination game at Sac City against Woodcreek. Elk Grove (21-8) beat Jesuit (22-8) in league play, 4-1 and 3-0.

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