In the past seven days, the Lodi native, St. Mary’s High alumnus and former Pacific baseball outfielder has agreed to a signing bonus, inked with the San Francisco Giants and learned his first assignment as a professional.
Brusa was the Giants’ sixth-round pick, 185th overall, and signed for his pick’s full value of a $262,700 bonus. He’s heading to San Francisco’s short-season “A” ball team: the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Salem, Oregon. Brusa isn’t the only area product in the Giants farm system.
Cameron Leeper, the former Delta College left-handed pitcher, has recovered from an injury but is currently rehabbing and not one of the Giants’ affiliates’ rosters.
Brusa hit a career-high 14 home runs in his senior season with Pacific. Who knows, next year, he could be playing with the high-A San Jose Giants, and returning to Stockton to face the Ports at Stockton Ballpark.
Our first dose of high school football in six months, since Sierra won the CIF State Division IV-A championship in Chowchilla, and our last for the next three months.
The North stars face the South in the 43rd annual District 4-A1 Lions All-Star Game at 7 p.m. today at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium.
The South has won two of the past three years, and tied in 2014, so it hasn’t lost since 2012. Last season, the South’s 51-38 win was the highest combined scoring game in its history.
I’ll have updates, scores, photos and videos live from Twitter @RecordPreps.
Here are five predictions for tonight’s madness:
Expectation of tricker-ation
Don Norton, the North coach and Stagg’s coach the past 11 years, doesn’t mind having an inventive, wide-open offense. And I’d expect that not just from Norton and the North, but from Patterson coach Rob Cozart and the South. Yes, this game means a ton to these players, but it’s also a chance to have some fun and try to freeze your opponent. Expect some trickery from both sides.
Four North passers
We’ve already detailed this week how the North has three quarterbacks in Calaveras’ Dylan Byrd (Claremont McKenna College football), Stagg’s Lavante Bushnell (Minot State) and McNair’s Osai Brown (Contra Costa College). Yes, Bushnell and Brown will mostly play wide receiver, but I believe they’ll both pass it, too. And, with the potential for trickery, I wouldn’t be shocked if a fourth North player has a pass attempt. Don’t blink!
Two North interceptions
The secondary is perhaps the most formidable unit for the North, along with its menacing offensive line, and I’d expect two interceptions tonight. The South has solid quarterbacks, that’s not the problem, the North’s secondary is just that good.
North 46, South 35
I do believe this game will be competitive into the fourth quarter, and hopefully, we avoid the “10 points rule”, but I predict that the North will win 46-35.
McNair quarterback Osai Brown could be a force for the North in the 43rd annual District 4-A1 Lions All-Star Football Game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tracy High's Wayne Schneider Stadium. RECORD FILE 2015
Pick your poison.
That’s what the South team’s defense is facing this week, as it prepares for an unpredictable and potentially dynamic North offense, in the 43rd annual District 4-A1 Lions All-Star Football Game.
Gates open at 5 p.m., pregame festivities begin at 6 p.m. and kickoff is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium.
Part of the reason the North’s offense is so dynamic, is because it has three viable options at quarterback, all with different skill sets. McNair’s Osai Brown has been the area’s most prolific passer the past two seasons, and is a two-time All-Area selection. He’s got an absolute cannon and can turn broken plays into touchdowns. And, Brown can play receiver, and play it well, which he may do in college ball. The same can be said for his friend in Stagg’s Lavante Bushnell, a dual-threat passer and rusher who will play receiver at NCAA Division II Minot State in North Dakota.
Finally, there’s the underrated kid from Calaveras — Dylan Byrd. Byrd has an excellent arm, but was hidden at times in an offense that focused more on running the ball. He’ll have a familiar face in Calaveras tight end Shane Torre, plus potentially, Bushnell, Brown, McNair’s Sean Hamilton (Sacramento State) and more.
Here’s a look at how I’d align the starting 11 (there are more than 11, these are just some of the names I’d focus on) for the North’s offense. Remember, this is just for fun:
NORTH OFFENSE, 2016
Osai Brown, McNair
Though Brown can be used in a variety of ways, he’s just too dynamic to keep away from that quarterback spot. That said, I would definitely mix in Byrd and Bushnell throughout the game. Throwing in Bushnell in a shotgun, without a huddle, and using a designed run could leave a defense reeling.
Brandon Zaunbrecher, St. Mary’s
Zaunbrecher, a 1,000-yard rusher and first-team All-Area tailback, has a style all his own, avoiding tacklers with a zig-zagging way of running that’s proven to be effective for him. He peaked late in the season, breaking off a 35-yard touchdown run against Folsom in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinals despite playing with an injury.
Terrance Ritzow, Chavez
Ritzow quietly compiled a 1,000-yard season at Chavez, as a second-team All-Area pick, and the shotgun offense that Norton runs will be similar to what he used with John Ward and the Titans.
Sean Hamilton, McNair
Hamilton, a two-time first-team All-Area wide receiver, is vastly underrated and a great get for Sacramento State. His route running is sublime, he’s got great hands and is difficult to bring down.
Lavante Bushnell, Stagg
Bushnell has experience as a slot receiver in the Delta Kings’ offense, and is incredibly difficult to tackle in space. Expect him to be a game MVP candidate if all goes to plan.
Erron Duncan, Weston Ranch
Duncan’s greatest impact on the North may come at safety, but he can be utilized as an “H” back or take the ball on a sweep play to devastate a defense.
Ronaldo Tijero, Manteca
Tijero, the only player the past two years to be first-team All-Area football and baseball for The Record, isn’t the fastest receiver, but has exceptional hands, a knack for the position and great experience playing for Manteca.
Frederick Elkins, Edison
Joseph Townsell, Lincoln
Tony Harper, St. Mary’s
Daniel Gonzales, Escalon
Francisco Jimenez, West
All you need to know, is that three of these potential five starting linemen (which could also include Calaveras’ Torre as a blocking tight end or Lincoln’s Keegan Wallen at center), are first-team All-Area selections (Elkins, Townsell, Harper) and Jimenez is second team.
High school football season is here. For a week at least. The 2015 season, long over officially, is capped ceremoniously by the 43rd annual District 4-A1 Lions All-Star Game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium. The South team has won two of the past three meetings, and the two teams tied in 2014.
Last year was the highest-scoring game in this Lions game’s history, 89 points combined as the South won 51-38. And speaking of the South, the go-to source for everything South Lions All-Stars is The Modesto Bee’s James Burns.
James and I broke down the game in our “Cover 2″ blog — yes it’s a rip-off of an ESPN NFL online coverage. We’ll refer to James’ segments as (JB) and mine (Thomas Lawrence) as TL:
TL: James, taking a look at your Lions coverage this week, one of the most compelling storylines at the forefront is former Valley Oak League foes and section finalists Oakdale and Modesto-Central Catholic putting their rivalry aside for the sake of the South.
What did you find out talking to the Mustangs and Raiders involved, and what kind of edge and pedigree do they give the South?
JB: They’ve been dubbed the X-factors by Patterson coach Rob Cozart, who spent most of the fall staring up in The Bee’s large-school rankings at Central Catholic and Oakdale. He loves their big-game experience and knows they won’t be blinded by the bright lights on Saturday.
It helps, Thomas, to have each of them strategically placed on the field, too. Adam Olsen will likely make his final appearance under center, while middle linebacker Kekupa’a Freehauf will anchor the defense.
Here’s how much faith Cozart has in Freehauf, who I’ve christened “the Hawaiian Hammer”: he’s starting just two linebackers, and tasking them to stop the North’s ground game.
Of course, we all expect the North to hunt its points through the air, what with Osai Brown, Dylan Byrd and Lavante Bushnell on the roster. That would be a 180-degree change from last June, when Nate Jones ran wild in the first half. Offensively, who has surprised you in camp, and who do you expect to have a big night?
TL: Indeed, the North is deeper in its aerial game than it was a year ago. And here’s the tricky part for the South, besides the usual “we have one week to prepare for a team full of collegiate-level players.”
Stagg’s Bushnell, a first-team All-Area utility player for The Record, could very well play quarterback, but he’ll probably used mostly as a receiver. That’s where he’s going to play for NCAA Division II Minot State next year and beyond.
McNair’s Brown was The Record’s first-team All-Area quarterback, and has an amazing rapport with North wide receiver Sean Hamilton (McNair), a Sacramento State Hornet to-be. Byrd is a sleeper MVP candidate, and has a cannon for an arm, but was in an old-school, pounding offense in San Andreas. Hamilton is a two-time first-team All-Area pick, and was underrated in my opinion, probably because of playing alongside now-Nebraska Cornhusker Derrion Grim.
Keep an eye out for St. Mary’s running back Brandon Zaunbrecher (1,000-yard rusher, first-team All-Area), Calaveras tight end Shane Torre (Humboldt State commit), and Chavez running back Terrance Ritzow (1,000-yard rusher, second-team All-Area).
Looking at the South’s offense, we know Patterson’s Cozart’s teams can fly around the field. And, we certainly saw that last year from the South, from Modesto-Downey’s Jeremy Plaa. What do you expect from their offensive attack?
JB: Ironically, much of the same. Under Plaa, the South utilized a mobile quarterback (P.J. Wilson and later Nate Phillips, the game’s MVP) to keep the defense in constant flux. Will he run? Or will he throw? Under Cozart, with his hybrid Spread/option tempo offense, the South will feature similar triggermen – Olsen and Los Banos’ Adam Herrera, yet another Humboldt State commit.
JB: Neither one looks comfortable throwing the ball just yet, but the South isn’t necessarily looking for the home-run ball. Cozart and offensive coordinator Steve Cardoso want to get the ball out quick, which means we can expect a lot of short routes by the receivers and leak-outs by the running backs. The saving grace for the South is the caliber of athlete at the skill positions. Wide relievers AJ Stewart and David Walker are big targets, while slot Michael Lawson might be the most versatile athlete in this game. If he touches the ball 10 times on Saturday, at least three of those plays will finish in the end zone. Take that to the bank!
Lawson’s advantage, beyond his supreme athleticism, is his familiarity with the offense, the terminology, and the hand signals. When a play breaks down and everyone is in the wrong place, as will happen, the South QBs will have Lawson as their bail-out, their go-to.
Olsen and Herrera are capable runners and will be looked upon to tuck the ball from time to time, but I believe the back to watch is Beyer High’s Jay Green, who gashed Central Catholic for 200 yards as a junior and earned the Modesto Metro Conference MVP. Green isn’t very big or the fastest, but he is workhorse back that relishes the challenge.
Defensively, what can the North do to slow the South?
TL: It’s a good thing the South is not looking for that constant home-run ball, because the North’s secondary is one of its greatest strengths.
Chavez cornerback Deon White, for example, allowed only two receptions when he was in one-on-one coverage with a receiver last year. That receiver was Grim, who’s becoming incredibly popular in Lincoln, Nebraska, just through his spring ball exploits.
St. Mary’s cornerback Brandon Sanders, Tokay safety Nick Arnaiz and Weston Ranch all-around standout Erron Duncan make that unit a beast to handle. And there’s enough speed to counter the South’s weapons, and eliminate some of that space they’ll be striving to find.
North coach Don Norton plans on stifling the South’s interior running game, anchored by 6-foot-3, 420-pound Edison lineman Frederick Elkins (soon-to-be Delta Mustang). And with that, he hopes the South will attack the edges, where he trusts his tacklers’ speed to make the stop.
The North is also strong up front besides Elkins, where Norton plans to use a four-man front. Sierra’s Andrew Guevara and Lodi’s Kade Piazza are first-team All-Area linemen, and Lincoln’s Rodney Jones is an underrated force — a 6-foot-5, pass swatting machine who’s headed to UNLV.
Alright, I know it’s early in the week, and ridiculous to try to pick these games, but it’s still fun. Any thoughts on who will win the 43rd annual Lions game?
JB: The South will rise up and win for a third time in the last four years, but the real question is: Will the nine-point rule come into play again? Let’s hope not.
Author’s note: This year, the rule of a team losing by over nine points receiving the kickoff after scoring is second-half only, and limited. This can be opted for twice, but not consecutively. Also, teams can only onside kick twice, not consecutively, and only during the second half. This rule alteration was sent to The Record by former longtime coach Wayne Schneider, the game’s organizer, in April.
It has to be said: The only reason the South won last June was because, by rule, it kept possession of the ball for most of the second half. Even after touchdowns. That didn’t sit well with the family of the North players, many of whom voiced their frustration during and after the game.
I’m not a fan of the rule and hope to see it go away one day soon. I understand why it was put in place — to keep the competitive and close — but it felt like North was being penalized for being so good in the first half. It gave momentum to the South, who never looked back.
As far individual awards go, I’ll wager on: Patterson’s Michael Lawson as game MVP; Downey’s Tyran Daniels as defensive MVP; and McNair’s Sean Hamilton as offense MVP. If he and Osai Brown have that strong of a rapport, it should show.
Care to venture a few predictions of your own?
TL: Well-said on all accounts, James, and I whole-heartedly agree with your thoughts on the “competitive equity” rule. These dudes sell out, work hard, condition and hit in the summer heat (though the heat was more stifling last summer) to become Lions champions.
This game does not feel like an exhibition, and having that kind of strange rule downplays the pride behind this game, and in the preparation, in my opinion. Certainly, that rule was a shock to many last year, including myself, and the North’s coaches and players. (And probably the South’s coaches and players, for that matter).
Norton said today that he absolutely does not like the rule, either, but that the North isn’t going to address it this week. He feels if that problem should arise, the defense needs to handle its business.
I predict that the North will add onto its all-time series lead, earning its 25th victory in the game’s 43rd edition, because it has the best depth between the two teams. That, and its three-headed monster of capable quarterbacks could present matchup nightmares. Especially if Bushnell makes a catch on one possession, and lines up in shotgun and goes off on a designed run on the next play. Same for McNair’s Brown.
The game’s MVP will be Weston Ranch’s Erron Duncan, who will score a touchdown on offense and be involved in a turnover on defense. The offensive MVP will be Patterson’s Michael Lawson and the defensive MVP will be Sierra’s Andrew Guevara — thanks in large part to Edison’s Elkins freeing up pass-rushing space.
James, thanks for joining us, and great work with the coverage this week. Join James and I by using the #Lions2016 hashtag on Twitter, for any photos, videos, predictions, commentary or updates on the game. Enjoy!
Sierra defensive lineman Andrew Guevara chases down a Chowchilla player during the CIF State Division IV-A championship game. RECORD FILE 2015
A shutdown cornerback who rarely let a pass get caught against him. A linebacker-turned-safety who functioned as a tackles machine. A modestly-sized, but relentless pass rusher who put up Michael Strahan-esque sack numbers.
Yes, players like former Chavez corner Deon White, Tokay safety Nick Arnaiz and Sierra defensive lineman Andrew Guevara highlight the North All-Stars defense — entering the 43rd annual District 4-A1 game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium — but that’s just the beginning.
The North, on both sides of the ball, is deep, deep, deep. Here’s a look at how I’d construct a starting 11 for the North’s defense (coach Don Norton, of Stagg, knows much more about football than me, so it’s a good thing he’s making the final call, sure). But hey, we can dream and scheme.
Andrew Guevara, Sierra
Guevara, a 5-foot-9 defensive end, compiled 26.5 sacks in two varsity seasons, including a whopping 19.5 in last year’s CIF State Division IV-A championship run.
Rodney Jones, Lincoln
The 6-5 Jones can rush the passer, but most impressively, really knows how to use his length. He makes life miserable for quarterbacks trying to peer and pass over the line of scrimmage where he’s operating. That’s why he’s heading to NCAA Division I UNLV to play some high-level football for the Runnin’ Rebels. An excellent complement to Guevara, and the third lineman I’d use.
Kade Piazza, Lodi
Piazza is a late addition to the North’s roster, but a great one. The dude is deceptively strong, and just a tank. His 5-11, 215-pound roster listing is deceiving. He played for a section-semifinalist Elliot Christian team as a junior, and fit in perfectly with the Flames as a senior. That’s why he was an All-Area first-team defensive lineman.
Jonathan Phillips, Stagg
Phillips was the team tackles leader for the Delta Kings as a junior and senior. He’s modestly-sized, like Guevara, but has massive heart and takes an impressive academic run onto the field as a smart defensive player.
Conner Johnson, Tracy
Johnson, Tracy’s team MVP winner — the sought-after Peter B. Kyne award — brings the grit of the Bulldogs’ heralded program to the roster. He knows what it takes to win. Though Tracy missed the playoffs this year, he and North teammate Nate Turner (another great choice for one of these spots) were around for 2014′s surreal trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals as a No. 7 seed.
Nick Arnaiz, Tokay
Arnaiz can protect the pass, be a roving tackler, and has the athleticism to do a bit of everything. That kind of versatility is key for an All-Star Game, where making defensive stops can be immensely difficult.
Marcus Rivas, Manteca
Every year, one Buffaloes senior captain is placed at the highest honor of the team, where they wield the “shepherd’s stick.” Rivas did so with pride, and it was obvious why, watching him play maniacally as a linebacker. He’ll bring the controlled venom and absolute love for football that these all-star teams need in tiny time for preparation.
Deon White, Chavez
White was the premier lockdown cornerback in the San Joaquin Athletic Association last season. According to his coaches, the only two receptions he allowed on a receiver he was covering last year both belonged to McNair’s Derrion Grim. You know, The Record’s All-Area Player of the Year and an incoming Nebraska freshman who’s already been winning over Cornhuskers fans with his precocious skill. So, White is an excellent get for this team.
Brandon Sanders, St. Mary’s
Speaking of lockdown cornerbacks, that’s exactly what Sanders developed into for St. Mary’s. And he played his best football when it mattered, in October and November, including batting down a potential touchdown pass for Lincoln in the Rams’ TCAL-championship clinching win at Spanos Stadium.
Erron Duncan, Weston Ranch
Duncan can be plugged in anywhere, from the secondary, to the running back position, to an “H” back to special teams. Yet defensive back may be where he’s most formidable, as that’s where he’ll play for UC Davis starting this fall.
Ronaldo Tijero, Manteca
Tijero carries the special distinction of being the only area athlete the past two seasons to be named first-team All-Area football and baseball for The Record. He has a knack for disrupting the big play in the secondary, and has the hands of a wide receiver, so he’s an interception waiting to happen.
Lincoln senior Keegan Wallen delivers a pitch against Lodi during a Tri-City Athletic League baseball game in April at Zupo Field. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD
Here they are, my final edition of high school baseball and softball power rankings for The Record’s coverage area in spring 2016. Playoffs are here, and in other sports, as well, so that’s where my focus rests.
These are nearly mirror images of last week’s rankings. The only change comes in large-school baseball. Manteca falls down a spot after losing its season-ending series to rival East Union, though the Buffaloes did clinch an outright Valley Oak League championship. Tri-City Athletic League runner-up Lincoln, the No. 4 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I south playoffs, moves up to second.
While East Union, the reigning Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion, has been the obvious top dog in my large-school Prep Softball Power Rankings, the bottom three teams in the top five have shuffled early and often.
St. Mary’s and Tracy have flip-flopped, for sure, and it’s happened again. Tracy has finished its Tri-City Athletic league slate at 12-3, and has the head-to-head tiebreaker over St. Mary’s (11-3 TCAL), which West beat 7-1 at Arnaiz Softball Complex last week.
Here’s a look at the power rankings entering the final week of the regular season for large schools (SJAA, TCAL, VOL) and small schools (MLL, TVL, SL, CCAA) in The Record’s coverage area:
1. East Union (1) 20-0, 12-0 VOL
The explanation: The Lancers’ toughest test, and their most-likely regular-season loss (emphasis on most likely, I’m not saying likely) comes tomorrow. Oakdale hosts East Union at 4 p.m., in a chance to split the Valley Oak League title. Odds are, the Mustangs are stewing over losing 5-4 on a walk-off, three-run home run from Lancers catcher Alejandra Rascon (see below) last time around. Castro update: East Union senior Michelle Castro is batting .614 with eight home runs, 20 extra-base hits overall, 25 RBI out of the leadoff spot and 15 stolen bases.
2. Sierra (2) 13-4, 10-4 VOL
The explanation: Sierra, the reigning section Division IV champion, is in great shape at another title run, and has a good shot whether it’s in Div. III or IV. Both of its match-ups with rival East Union have been incredibly tight and hard-fought. Timberwolves sophomore pitcher Lindsey Walljasper is 10-3 with a 0.58 ERA, and is batting .467.
3. Tracy (4) 18-5, 12-3 TCAL
The explanation: Tracy has made it through the brutal TCAL gauntlet, where even fifth-place Tokay is dangerous and has multiple NCAA Division I players, and owns the top playoff seed from the league. Sophomore shortstop Rachel Cid, a reigning first-team All-Area infielder for The Record, is batting .492 with 18 extra-base hits and 31 RBI. She’s an Oregon verbal commit, the same program where East Union graduate Cherish Burks, a first-team All-Area outfielder last year, is playing.
4. St. Mary’s (3) 13-8, 11-3 TCAL
The explanation: St. Mary’s can salvage a technical share of a league title by beating Tokay at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Arnaiz Stadium. The won’t be easy, as Tokay just beat a solid team in Lodi twice. Seniors Taylor Mamola and Hannah Russell have quietly produced outstanding power-hitting seasons for the Rams. Mamola is batting .400 with 13 extra-base hits and 24 RBI, and Russell, a Santa Clara commit, is batting .400 with 11 extra-base hits and a team-high 29 RBI.
T5. West (5) 14-9, 8-7 TCAL
T5. Lodi (NR) 11-9, 8-7 TCAL
The explanation: Both of these squads have quality wins, as West has beaten St. Mary’s, Tracy and Lodi. Lodi took two of three against West, but West finished its league slate in stronger fashion, so the two can share this spot. Lodi owns the third and final playoff spot from the TCAL since it has the head-to-head over West.
St. Mary's outfielder Ramil Pinzon takes a hack against Tokay in an April game at Zupo Field in Lodi. CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD FILE 2016
The St. Mary’s baseball team has a long road ahead in chasing its eighth consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South championship. But the Rams, who began at No. 2, have reached the final Prep Baseball Power Rankings of the regular season in the top spot.
St. Mary’s can pitch, led by senior ace Isaiah Bettencourt, it can hit, led by the potent bats of Jarron Silva, Dillon Tatum and Christian Almanza, among others, and it plays solid defense.
Here’s a look at the top five lists for large schools (TCAL, SJAA, VOL) and small schools (MLL, TVL, SL, CCAA) in The Record’s coverage area.
1. St. Mary’s (1) 16-10, 13-1 TCAL
The explanation: St. Mary’s is 5-1 against the teams on this list, after taking two of three against Tracy, and its first two games against rival Lincoln. Lincoln hosts the series finale at 4 p.m. Monday after their Friday game was rained out.
St. Mary’s, Lincoln, Tracy and Lodi have clinched the Tri-City Athletic League’s four playoff bids. Speaking of the TCAL, St. Mary’s is an outright league champion for the first time in four years, and the first time in coach Rob Selna’s tenure.
2. Manteca (2) 18-5, 10-1 VOL
The explanation: Modesto-Central Catholic (7-4 Valley Oak League) has given Manteca (18-5, 10-1) its lone VOL loss. Yet, the Buffaloes can clinch a share of the league title, and the top playoff seed from it, by beating East Union at 4 p.m. Monday, and win it outright by beating Kimball at 4 p.m. Tuesday, both on the road.
3. Lincoln (3) 13-13, 9-5 TCAL
The explanation: Lincoln likely needs to salvage the final game of its series against St. Mary’s to hold onto second-place in the TCAL, and earn a better playoff seed. This team can pitch and defend, but will need the middle of its order to step up come playoff time, to score enough runs to compete with not only St. Mary’s and Tracy, but teams like Modesto-Beyer (MMC) or Turlock (CCC).
4. Tracy (4) 19-7, 9-5 TCAL
The explanation: Tracy has the talent and starting pitching to be not just the divisional, but the section champion. But this team has to catch fire at the right time, as it did last year as a No. 4 seed. It’ll be fascinating to see where Tracy is seeded, especially if it’s the third-place finisher, but from the obvious strongest league (TCAL) in Div. I South.
5. Bear Creek (5) 18-6-1, 12-1 SJAA
The explanation: McNair may come for this spot in the regular-season capping rankings, should it win their regular-season finale at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Bear Creek. Keep your eyes this postseason on junior starting pitcher Nick Prum, who threw a complete-game, one-hit shutout against Bear Creek in a 1-0 victory on Thursday.
East Union junior Mikayla Bongi pitches against Manteca in a Valley Oak League softball game earlier this season at Manteca High. East Union won 11-6. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD
The East Union softball team (20-0, 12-0 Valley Oak League), is rolling through VOL play yet again, and have sparkled in big moments this season, like with Alejandra Rascon’s walk-off home run against Oakdale, and the Lancers’ extra-inning win at rival Sierra.
Sure, East Union has the star power, like senior first baseman Michelle Castro, who’s batting .614 with eight home runs, 25 RBI (Out of the LEADOFF spot), 20 extra-base hits total, an on-base percentage of .630, a slugging percentage of 1.185 and thus a supernatural OPS of 1.816.
But the Lancers also have depth. Junior pitchers Mikayla Bongi and Delaney Pamplin are both 10-0, Pamplin has a 0.15 earned run average and Bongi has a 0.70 ERA. East Union has outscored its opponents 148-20.
An outright Tri-City Athletic League championship and an ascension in the latest NorCal rankings have highlighted the past couple weeks for the ever-potent St. Mary’s baseball team.
The top of The Record’s coverage area’s high school softball crop is playing at an unreal level. On Tuesday, it was as if multiple players were vying to become our All-Area MVP… a month early.
Sierra sophomore Lindsey Walljasper fired a perfect game against Valley Oak League and intra-city rival Manteca, an excellent hitting team, mind you, in a 2-0 win. And East Union senior Michelle Castro ripped not one, not two, but three home runs in a VOL rout of Modesto-Central Catholic.
Castro and East Union, the defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champions, are still unbeaten and an obvious No. 1 in my latest power rankings for large and small schools in the area.
1. East Union (1) 18-0, 10-0 VOL
The explanation: East Union, which has already swept its VOL series from rival Sierra, will be up against it in its regular-season finale on May 10 at Oakdale. But for now, the Lancers are on a 21-game winning streak overall and a 25-game winning streak in VOL play. Castro is now batting over .600 with eight home runs. Those eight HRs are tied for 13th best in the state, tied for seventh-best in NorCal and she’s surpassed Millennium’s Mila Rodriguez (six HRs) as the San Joaquin County leader, as of 7 p.m. Tuesday.
2. Sierra (2) 11-3, 8-3 VOL
The explanation: Walljasper’s perfect game would’ve been impressive no matter what, but to come against a rival, once which often mercy-rules lesser teams with a deep and potent offense, is just incredible. Sierra has knocked on the door against East Union both times they’ve played, but have just missed. Last time, Sierra took East Union eight innings before losing 4-3.
3. Tracy (3) 15-4, 9-2 TCAL
The explanation: The Bulldogs are tied with St. Mary’s in the Tri-City Athletic League loss column, but won the three-game set two games to one, and own the tiebreaker with the Rams. Tracy has another All-Area Player of the Year candidate in sophomore shortstop Rachel Cid. Cid, who was the first-team third baseman last year, is batting .444 with 15 extra-base hits and 21 RBI.
4. St. Mary’s (4) 10-7, 8-2 TCAL
The explanation: The Rams, who boast wins over Tracy, West, Lodi and, most importantly, highly-ranked San Jose-Archbishop Mitty, are keeping on the Bulldogs’ heels and have a great chance to still win the TCAL title shared or outright. Especially because Tracy must face rival West this week, a dangerous, deep team.
5. Lodi (5) 9-8, 6-6 TCAL
The explanation: Though Tokay upset rival Lodi tonight, the Flames still won their series with West and upset Tracy in one of their matchups. The pitching duo of Danielle Pfennig and Shelby Featherston is pivotal to Lodi’s playoff hopes.
Bob Highfill has been with The Record sports department since 1990. He started as a part-time reporter/agate clerk then covered the high school sports beat before taking on the Pacific athletics beat. In 2006, he was named sports editor. Bob was ... Read Full
Linesburgh has been a member of The Record's sports department since 1988. A native of Wantagh, N.Y., he covers the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League, and has spent more than a quarter century reporting various other sports on the high ... Read Full
Lawrence became a prep and general assignment sports reporter for The Record in August 2014. He has covered high school, college and professional sports and more in his career. From November of 2011 through summer 2014, he covered college and prep ... Read Full