The Tracy baseball team, including Garrett Cichella, 22, celebrate a run scored during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South playoffs in May 2015 at Klein Family Field in Stockton. RECORD FILE 2015
A team batting average of .347. Forty-three extra-base hits. A cumulative earned-run average of 2.57.
Some numbers may be deceiving, but when looking at its statistics, it’s quite easy to see why the Tracy baseball team is off to an 11-2 start overall and a 1-0 start in the Tri-City Athletic League.
That’s why Tracy is an easy choice for No. 1 in my first Prep Baseball Power Rankings of the young season.
1) TRACY (11-2, 1-0 TCAL)
The Bulldogs, recently ranked 12th in Northern California in NorCalPreps’ rankings, are defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South runners-up and have been excellent early. on. Tracy returns most of its roster, including starting pitchers in junior Cody Bolton (Michigan verbal commit), senior Noah Denoyer and senior Thomas Greely, as well as senior Brett Mansell.
The bulk of the Bulldogs’ position players are back, and they add sophomore Josh Alvarado, who’s batting .452 with 11 RBI. Junior slugger Lee Brewer, who missed the end of last season with injury, has already belted four homers.
Look out, TCAL. Look out, Sac-Joaquin Section.
2) ST. MARY’S (4-8, 1-0 TCAL)
St. Mary’s is likely the second-best team in the area still, yet the Rams are the inverse of Tracy, having graduated the vast majority of their key players.
Back, though, are senior outfielder Jarron Silva, a UCLA commit, and senior infielder Anthony Galindo, who’s got a smooth glove and a very good bat. However, it’s junior Christian Almanza who’s been the best offensive player of the regular starters, batting .333 with two doubles, a homer and five RBI.
3) MANTECA (10-4, 2-0 VOL)
The Buffaloes are off to a solid start in the Valley Oak League, after sweeping rival Oakdale with wins of 5-4 and 13-5. Tyler Graves-Kelso, a senior, was a member of the Buffaloes’ state championship basketball team but missed a large chunk of the season, including the end, with a knee injury. He’s ready on the diamond, though, and is 2-0 on the mound with an 0.60 ERA. Senior Ronaldo Tijero, a first-team All-Area football selection, is batting .396 with seven extra-base hits and 18 RBI.
4) KIMBALL (9-4, 0-2 VOL)
Kimball dropped its two VOL openers to Modesto-Central Catholic, but that is an excellent small-school team which will be a tough out in the Division IV or III playoffs. The Jaguars have beaten McNair and West.
5) Take your pick!
Seriously, take your pick. There are all kinds of contradictions in head-to-head so far. Lincoln beat Bear Creek but lost to McNair. McNair lost to West, Kimball and Manteca but beat Lincoln, Linden and Turlock. Weston Ranch is 13-1 but is yet to log a big-time victory. Sierra and East Union split their opening VOL series, and may very well be superior to Kimball. It’s anyone’s guess at this point. Tokay has shown it can be strong, has dropped games to Bear Creek and Oakdale.
The initial 30-man roster for the District 4-A1 Lions North All-Star football team has been unveiled. The group is going to guided by Don Norton, the Stagg coach for the past 11 seasons who also coached the North stars in 2010.
Here’s a look at each player, and one sentence from me on what they bring.
LAVANTE BUSHNELL (Stagg QB/WR)
Bushnell is a versatile threat as a passer or receiver, and knows Norton and his up-tempo, spread system exceptionally well.
OSAI BROWN (McNair QB)
Brown is Stockton’s and San Joaquin County’s most prolific passer the last two seasons, and will fit perfectly as the North can flex Bushnell out as a slot receiver.
SEAN HAMILTON (McNair WR)
Hamilton gives Brown one of his favorite and most familiar targets, and while a ton of attention went to Nebraska-bound Derrion Grim this year at McNair, Hamilton was exceptional in a second consecutive first-team All-Area season.
RONALDO TIJERO (Manteca WR/DB)
Tijero is a hard-hitter, great in pass coverage and a very good wide receiver who will fit in easily with his teammates with that swagger inherited from the Buffs and coach Eric Reis.
NATE TURNER (Tracy OLB)
Turner brings the grit of the Bulldogs defense, and coach Matt Shrout, to a unit that’s brought in some excellent linebackers to say the least.
DYLAN BYRD (Calaveras QB/P)
Byrd will be fighting for pass reps with some great quarterbacks, but Norton, who saw Byrd perform at a 7-on-7 tournament last summer at Stagg, loves the kid’s arm and potential in a modern system.
DEON WHITE (Chavez WR/DB)
White was quietly one of the best defensive backs in the area, and the only time he let a couple passes be caught against him in man coverage were against Grim, Chavez coach John Ward said.
TERRANCE RITZOW (Chavez RB)
Much like Priest Jennings the year before him, Ritzow brought a workmanlike approach to earning another 1,000-yard season for the Titans, and provides a nice counterpunch for the North’s high-octane offense.
NICK ARNAIZ (Tokay DB)
Area coaches, especially from the Tri-City Athletic League, raved about the hard hitting and range of Arnaiz, a hybrid linebacker and safety, and Record first-team All-Area pick.
WYATT FAUGHAN (Sonora OLB/DB)
The Record does not cover Sonora, but peering into MaxPreps, it seems Faughan was an eclectic defensive player, with 56 tackles, an interception and two fumble recoveries.
AUSTIN MILLER (East Union DB/WR)
At 6-3, Miller has the height to make dramatic plays on both sides of the ball, and averaged huge yardage per reception for the Lancers.
ERRON DUNCAN (Weston Ranch RB/DB)
Duncan was the heart and soul of the Cougars, and his raw speed, high intelligence and uncanny athleticism could change this game for the North on a breakaway run or kick return.
BRANDON ZAUNBRECHER (St. Mary’s RB)
Zaunbrecher, a 1,000-plus yard rusher for the Rams, has a quirky running style, often moving diagonally, but he is incredibly tough to bring down as he showed in a long TD run in the section semis at Folsom.
BRANDON SANDERS (St. Mary’s DB)
Sanders, one of several great Rams cornerbacks from the past two years, excelled down the stretch and had an incredible pass knockdown in a 29-14, TCAL-clinching win at rival Lincoln.
MARCUS RIVAS (Manteca LB/DB)
Rivas was the senior captain who carried the Buffaloes’ heralded “Shepherd’s Stick” and was an absolute torpedo for Reis’ defense.
MARCEL DANCY (West RB/DB)
Dancy, undoubtedly the best two-way player in The Record’s coverage area, went off for 1,914 rushing yards and 25 rushing TDs in his senior season, one in which West qualified for the playoffs.
JONATHAN PHILLIPS (Stagg LB)
Phillips, the tackles leader on a defense full of gaudy tackling stats, is a silent leader, and a superbly intelligent player and young man.
CONNER JOHNSON (Tracy LB)
Johnson, the winner of Tracy’s team MVP award, will combine with Turner to give the North’s defense an edge, and the two will be extra-fired up to play on their home field: Wayne Schneider Stadium.
ANDREW GUEVARA (Sierra DE)
Guevara pushed 20 sacks before the Timberwolves CIF State championship run was over, as he is a relatively small, but beastly pass-rusher who earns everything he gets.
DANIEL GONZALES (Escalon C)
Coming from the Cougars’ and coach Mark Loureiro’s vaunted Wing-T rushing machine, Gonzales will be a valuable piece in run-blocking schemes.
KEEGAN WALLEN (Lincoln C)
Wallen has some experience in the spread and tempo of now-Lincoln head coach Anthony Martinez’s offense, and he and Gonzales will benefit from working with one another.
JOSHUA FALA (Sierra OL/DL)
Fala, a 6-foot-6 mountain of a man who’ll play college football for Delaware State, could be used to dominate both sides of the trenches by Norton.
GARRETT HEFFINGTON (Calaveras OL/DL)
Heffington, like Gonzales, comes from a sound, old-school system in Calaveras, and as most Mother Lode League players do, has a chance to prove he belongs.
ALEX BUENROSTRO (Chavez DT)
Buenrostro is familiar with what Norton likes on defense, and will help his fellow linemen create a passing attack against a South offense that went off in a comeback win last year.
TONY HARPER (St. Mary’s OL)
Harper was a crucial member of an excellent Rams offensive line, a quiet force who earned his keep as a Record first-team All-Area selection.
JOSEPH TOWNSELL (Lincoln OL)
Townsell, another first team All-Area offensive lineman for The Record, comes with high praise from former Trojans coach Brian Gray, and follows former Lincoln lineman Keilen Mocencio, who played for the North squad last summer.
FRANCISCO JIMENEZ (West OL)
Jimenez, highly-regarded by Wolf Pack coach Steve Anastasio, was part of the unit that helped Dancy put up an incredible season for West.
RODNEY JONES (Lincoln DL)
Jones, a 6-foot-5 menace on the defensive line, is bound for UNLV football and it’s obvious why: he’s tall, he’s strong, he’s fast, he can rush the passer and bat down passes with the best of them.
SHANE TORRE (Calaveras TE)
Torre is an interesting fit for Norton and the North’s high-speed offense, and may be a great counter punch for some passes over the middle as a strong, state-ranked wrestler who can drag some people downfield.
FRED ELKINS (Edison OL)
Elkins, a first-team All-Area offensive lineman, thrived in a tough offensive year for the Vikings, and was not just respected by his coach Andre Horace, but coaches throughout the SJAA.
Manteca's Anand Hundal, left, battles against Bishop O'Dowd's Raymond Hawkins during their CIF NorCal Division III title game Saturday at American Canyon High. Hundal had a game-high 25 points and Manteca won 70-45. THOMAS LAWRENCE/THE RECORD
The last time a boys basketball team from San Joaquin County won a state championship, none of the current Manteca Buffaloes were born. That about says it.
Manteca, after defeating Oakland-Bishop O’Dowd 70-45 in the CIF NorCal Division III final on Saturday night at American Canyon High, has reached the first CIF State title game in program and city history. The Buffaloes face the Southern Section and Southern California champion Chino Hills-Ayala Bulldogs at 4 p.m. Thursday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
Here’s a “By the Numbers” look at Manteca’s remarkable March:
22: It’s been 22 years since a team from this county won a boys basketball state title: and that was the Ripon Christian boys, a three-time state champion, in 1994.
88: Even crazier, the last time a public school from this county won it was the now-closed Stockton High Tarzans in 1928. If anybody who reads this remembers that or was a part of it, PLEASE call me.
43: Manteca led O’Dowd, a 17-time North Coast Section and 10-time NorCal champion, 27-26 at half. In the second half, though, the Buffaloes exploded for 43 points while holding the Dragons to 19.
20: Manteca owned the interior against O’Dowd, epitomized by 6-foot-9 senior Kenny Wooten’s 20-rebound performance.
86: Dwight Young has been the Buffaloes’ Mariano Rivera: a near-unbeatable closer. The junior guard has delivered an 86-percent free-throw percentage. Not to mention, his 76 made 3-pointers and 40-percent clip from beyond the arc. (All stats are through the end of the section playoffs).
12:30: The Buffaloes will get a grand send-off to state when the bus leaves at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, and may have a police escort, like the Sierra football team did before its CIF State title game in December.
The Ayala boys basketball team, right, presents a formidable challenge for Manteca in the CIF State Division III title game at 4 p.m. Thursday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. PHOTO FROM THE INLAND VALLEY DAILY BULLETIN
When you hear that the Manteca boys basketball team’s CIF State championship matchup is against a team from Chino Hills, it might drop your jaw to the ground.
After all, Chino Hills High is the No. 1-rated high school basketball team in the nation, and faces Concord-De La Salle for a CIF State Open Division title at 8 p.m. Saturday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
The Buffaloes (28-6), though, face Ayala of Chino Hills, the Southern California Division III champion. Manteca and Ayala face off at 4 p.m. Thursday at Sleep Train. Ayala is, cleverly noted by the Los Angeles Times’ Eric Sondheimer, the “other” team in Chino Hills. But the Bulldogs are formidable.
My “Know Thine Enemy” blog returns to break down Ayala.
Record: 34-3, 9-1 Palomares League
Accomplishments: Palomares League co-champions, Southern Section Division III champions
History: At least 12 consecutive winning seasons
Player to Watch: No. 0 John Edgar, 6-foot-5 senior guard/forward
Player to Watch: No. 1 Austin Awosika, 6-foot-3 senior guard
Against NorCal: Ayala has several impressive wins against Northern California teams the past decade, but none from our area.
Current streak: Ayala has won nine consecutive games since an overtime loss against LaVerne-Bonita on Feb. 11.
The Heat signed goaltender Mark Owuya toa Professional Tryout (PTO) contract on Friday, taking him from the roster of the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies.
He’s an experienced guy, but there’s some interesting things about him which has nothing to do with hockey.
His brother, Sebastian, played for the Stockton Thunder in 2011-2012. and Mark, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, is a rapper who competed on the Swedish version of the reality show Idol in 2006 as a rapper named “Mark In Da Park.”
He didn’t win, but he is all over YouTube. Here’s his performance, with a quick warning for some language.
The Pacific baseball team has wrapped up its preseason games, and enters West Coast Conference play at BYU Thursday through Saturday. The Tigers (6-10) have had a stronger start than a year ago, though with a more realstic schedule.
Here’s a “By the Numbers” look at what Pacific’s done so far, focusing on some of the team’s statistical leaders and defining characteristics.
.383: Louis Mejia is perhaps the best contact hitter returning to Pacific, and he’s showed it thus far. Mejia has been red-hot, leading the Tigers with a .383 batting average, with a team-high 23 hits to go with nine RBI.
8: Mejia is also on an eight-game hitting streak, and went 5 for 8 in the Tigers’ recent weekend series at Washington in Seattle.
.422: Kevin Sandri, a freshman shortstop from Concord-De La Salle, has been a revelation for the Tigers. He has a team-high .422 on-base percentage, quite an honor as a freshman, and is hitting .362 with seven RBI, as he’s spent time out of the leadoff spot.
15: Tigers outfielder Danny Mayer lead the club with three home runs and 12 RBI (combine them you get 15, that’s a stretch, I know). The dude is confident and directly honest, and Pacific needs some swagger like that as it learns to become a winning program.
2.95: Jake Jenkins, a right-handed starting pitcher, is just 1-1 record-wise, but has delivered a very good 2.95 earned-run average in three starts.
8: Pacific’s season-high for runs scored in a game, as it did in an 8-5 win over Northern Colorado on March 6 at Klein Family Field.
14: Pacific’s season-high for runs allowed in a game, as it yielded in a 14-5 loss to Northwestern on Feb. 28 at Klein Family Field.
The Manteca boys basketball team is 32 minutes away from the program’s, and the city’s, first CIF Northern California championship.
What stands in the Buffaloes’ way? Well, just the defending Open Division champion.
No. 2 Manteca faces eighth-seeded Oakland-Bishop O’Dowd in the CIF NorCal Division III title game at 8 p.m. Saturday at American Canyon High.
O’Dowd (17-14) was a monster of a low seed, a .500 team entering the state playoffs. Sure, they lost 6-foot-11 Ivan Rabb to graduation, and Cal, after beating Mater Dei in the Open Division finals. But their young, talented players have found a rhythm, and were downright dazzling in beating No. 1 Weston Ranch 72-64 in the NorCal quarterfinals on Saturday in Stockton.
Record: 17-14, 4-2 West Alameda County-Foothill League
History: 17 North Coast Section, 10 Northern California and 2 CIF State championships
Analysis: Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan is one of the most honest coaches we cover, so when he expressed concern about O’Dowd immediately after the regional brackets were released, it was a sign. O’Dowd, like Bay Area powerhouses tend to, has precocious talent, amazing body control and the ability to finish that dwarfs most teenagers. This team, as you can see above, starts two sophomores, a freshman, a junior and a senior. Look out, California, in the next two to three years.
The Weston Ranch boys basketball team celebrates its Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship on March 4 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD
One phrase comes to mind for a No. 8 seed in a Division III bracket, that is in actuality a reigning CIF State Open Division champion.
And eighth-seeded Oakland-Bishop O’Dowd boys basketball is attempting to become exactly that, visiting No. 1 Weston Ranch in a CIF NorCal Division III quarterfinal at 6 p.m. today in Stockton.
O’Dowd (15-14) has taken its lumps with new personnel, and with a difficult schedule, and is not the juggernaut it was with 6-foot-11 Ivan Rabb: now at Cal. But the Dragons are deep, with good length and talented guards. Weston Ranch coach Chris Teevan thinks this might just be the de-facto NorCal championship game.
Here’s a quick gameday preview, with a player to watch, an x-factor and a showcase of Weston Ranch’s video highlights from throughout the 2015-16 season.
PLAYER TO WATCH:
D’Angelo Finley, Weston Ranch F, Sr.
Finley is one of the most underrated players in the area, an offensive wizard who can hit the 3 ball or utilize the glass in a way few teenagers can. His versatility is paramount against O’Dowd, a team with plenty of flexibility itself. Finley has experience against the smooth, fluid talent that the Bay Area features, as he’s a transfer from Pleasanton-Foothill.
Whose energy matches the stage?
Oddly enough, the emotional come down after the section playoffs — the North Coast Section for O’Dowd, and the Sac-Joaquin Section for Weston Ranch — mean some teams don’t show their best in the CIF State playoffs. They are the ultimage stage, so motivation isn’t an issue, but it’s more of the timing.
Last year, for example, the section runner-up Cougars were just tired when they lost a lead and fell to Aptos at home in their NorCal opener, Teevan said.
Weston Ranch hopes to change that this year, with a potential path to an unprecedented state championship at-stake.
The East Union softball team has a history of recent excellence. But this may be the best we’ve ever seen the Lancers.
East Union is No. 10 in Cal-Hi Sports’ Preseason Softball State Rankings: No. 3 in Northern California and tops in the Sac-Joaquin Section. The Lancers went 30-3 in 2015, and as the No. 2 seed, swept No. 1 Woodland-Pioneer, both in routs, to win the section Division III championship last May in Sacramento.
East Union’s toughest loss is outfielder and leadoff hitter Cherish Burks, now at Oregon, but besides coach Brian Goulart, senior shortstop Sam Owen returns. Owen is The Record’s reigning All-Area Player of the Year, and a Pacific softball commit, who batted a mammoth .643 with nine home runs and 62 runs. And don’t forget Alexis Erich, a cleanup hitter and outfielder who’s only a junior, who batted .644 with 59 RBI last spring. Plus, East Union’s quietly-good pitching staff of Delaney Pamplin (15-1, 1.17 ERA), the Valley Oak League’s Pitcher of the Year, and Mikayla Bongi (15-2, 1.71 ERA) are back.
The Lancers play a tough schedule, with multiple difficult tournaments, and play St. Mary’s in a nonleague game that I’ll be dubbing “The Battle for San Joaquin County.” St. Mary’s doesn’t have the talent or resume of East Union, but sophomore pitcher and slugger Carley Morfey is primed for another exceptional season.
The No. 8 St. Mary's boys basketball team, in white, and No. 10 Lodi, in red, both have brutal paths ahead of them in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD
To say the five area boys basketball teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I bracket have a difficult road ahead of them is like saying The Rolling Stones have had a hard time saying goodbye to touring.
No. 8 St. Mary’s is the only area team with a home game, facing No. 9 Vacaville-Wood at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Morelli Gym. Besides that, No. 10 Lodi goes to No. 7 El Dorado Hills-Oak Ridge, No. 11 Edison treks to No. 6 Granite Bay, No. 13 Chavez heads to No. 4 Carmichael-Jesuit and No. 15 West gets a goliath, heading east to face No. 2 Modesto Christian and highly-touted prospects Robinson Idehen and Christian Ellis.
The Wildcats boast a better record than the Rams, but have played a considerably weaker schedule. This seems a favorable matchup for St. Mary’s, as Wood only has two players at 6-foot-3 or above: which is the Rams’ Kryptonite with a thin frontcourt this year.
Look for an exceptional home finale from senior guard Evan Madill, a 3-point shooting specialists who’s averaged 16 points this year.
NO. 10 LODI (19-8) AT NO. 7 OAK RIDGE (16-11)
The Trojans went 5-7 in the brutal Sierra Foothill League, which was won by No. 1 Folsom, as No. 5 Roseville-Woodcreek was the runner-up. Oak Ridge’s nine seniors on the roster. If Oak Ridge can break Lodi’s relentless press and deal with the Flames’ fresh legs, their tag as a favorite should remain. But Lodi has nothing to lose and there’s a certain focus you see to senior-heavy teams on the road this time of year. Look for senior forward Spencer Monteiro to have a monster double-double.
NO. 11 EDISON (18-8) AT NO. 6 GRANITE BAY (19-8)
Talk about a clash of styles. The Vikings run an excellent full-court press, and can storm back into games with the defense and transition scoring of senior twin guards Sharif and Shaqur Vanhook, the 3-point shooting of senior guard Carlnel McGee-Woolbright and the interior presence of 6-foot-2 senior forward Adonnis McMurtry. McMurtry must try and stifle the Grizzlies’ Darren Nelson, a 6-8, 250-pound senior who dominated in a nonleague win over St. Mary’s in December.
NO. 13 CHAVEZ (18-9) AT NO. 4 JESUIT (23-4)
This is a brutal matchup for the Titans. The Marauders went 12-2 in the Delta League, only losing to perennial power and No. 3 Sacramento-Sheldon twice in that process. One of those games was only by a bucket. Senior Malik Duffy leads Jesuit with 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. Speaking of seniors, it’s time to shine for Chavez guards Justice Harris (20 PPG, 5 RPG) and Abraham Kabba (13 PPG).
NO. 15 WEST (17-10) AT NO. 2 MODESTO CHRISTIAN (26-1)
The Wolf Pack are playing with house money. In fact, the wise thing to do is for West to wear” Why Not Us?” T-shirts to Modesto on Wednesday night. The Crusaders are a defensive powerhouse, only losing to No. 1 Folsom in their regular-season debut, and steamrolling away the Modesto Metro Conference. West’s best chance is to stick forwards in junior Ephraim Estell and sophomore Michael Hayes on Idehen, and hope Modesto Christian doesn’t devastate them from the perimeter. The Wolf Pack need guards Isaiah Abdul and Isaiah Grady to have huge nights offensively to hang in it.
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