A thunderous State Coach of the Year

State Coach of the Year Jeff Carlson of Elk Grove is interviewed by Sacramento media standouts Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty after a recent baseball game. Photo: Courtesy John Hull (Elk Grove Citizen).

State Coach of the Year Jeff Carlson of Elk Grove is interviewed by Sacramento media standouts Joe Davidson and Mike Finnerty after a recent baseball game. Photo: Courtesy John Hull (Elk Grove Citizen).

Elk Grove’s Jeff Carlson has pushed his program to a dominant position in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and it’s time to put him and the Thundering Herd in the spotlight. Other coaching honors announced for Wilmer Aaron (Gardena Serra) and Gil Ruiz (Pacific Grove).

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Whenever a coach’s tenure is referred to as an “era,” then you know that the coach has made a lasting imprint on a school and a community.

At Elk Grove near Sacramento, the Jeff Carlson coaching era in baseball began in 2000 and after this season includes nine conference titles with a fifth CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I crown.

Carlson and the Thundering Herd won this year’s section title with a two-game sweep over three-time defending champion St. Mary’s of Stockton. They ended No. 3 in the final Cal-Hi Sports state rankings at 29-5 and now have another honor with Carlson being chosen this week as the 2013 Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year.

Carlson is the first from the Sac-Joaquin Section to be State Coach of the Year since Guy Anderson from Cordova of Rancho Cordova was selected in 1981. Anderson is now the second winningest coach in state history with more than 900 wins. The only other Sacramento area coaches on the all-time list are Dick Sperbeck from Bishop Armstrong (1962), Cliff Perry from McClatchy (1951) and Ed Combatalade of Sacramento (1935).

Although this year’s team at Elk Grove had several high-profile players such as Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year finalist Ryan “Rowdy” Tellez and Colorado Rockies signer Dom Nunez, Carlson also infused the talent of several younger players. Among that group was his son, freshman Dylan Carlson, who started a first base for much of the season.

Despite the success, it was still a trying season in some regards for Carlson and his son. His wife of 16 years, Caryn, has been restricted to a wheelchair for long stretches while recovering from a case of transverse myelitis, an inflammatory disorder that impacts the spinal cord.

In addition to baseball, Carlson has been a coach within Elk Grove’s very strong football program. He will be leading the junior varsity team this fall.

As with many strong programs in all sports, Carlson has benefitted from the work of his assistants. One of those assistants, Dave Pinckney, retired after the last St. Mary’s win and has been working within the baseball program since 1994.

In addition to Tellez and Nunez, some of Carlson’s other former players have included Oregon State catcher Jake Rodriguez, Cal State Fullerton pitcher/DH J.D. Davis, Sacramento State’s Will Soto and Long Beach State’s Zach Miller and Colby Brenner.

Another handful of former Elk Grove players are playing professionally, including Arizona Diamondbacks’ set-up pitcher David Hernandez and Oakland A’s farmhand David Freitas.

Note: Thanks to John Hull, sportswriter for the Elk Grove Citizen, for helping out with information and photos for this package.

Wilmer Aaron brings a rich history of experience to help the players at Serra and in the South Central L.A. community.

Wilmer Aaron brings a rich history of experience to help the players at Serra and in the South Central L.A. community.

More Cal-Hi Sports State Baseball Coaches of the Year

Medium Schools:
Wilmer Aaron (Serra, Gardena)

Since taking over at Serra in 2009, Coach Aaron has continually been able to improve the Cavaliers’ record. This season ended with a CIF Southern Section Division III championship and one of their players, Dominic Smith, picked in the first round of the MLB Draft.

Before Aaron took over the Cavaliers in 2008, they had won just one game. They have now won at least 20 games for three seasons after not having a winning record and no more then 13 wins in the previous six years.

If you’re wondering, Wilmer is a cousin of Hall of Famer Henry Aaron. He played himself, but he never reached higher than the AA level.

The last baseball coach for the South Bay Region of Los Angeles County selected tops in the state was Harry Jenkins, who was the overall State Coach of the Year in 2000 from West of Torrance.

Gil Ruiz holds CCS D3 championship coaches' plaque.

Gil Ruiz holds CCS D3 championship coaches’ plaque.

Small Schools:
Gil Ruiz (Pacific Grove)

Under Ruiz’s guidance, it was a record-breaking season for the Breakers as they went undefeated and captured the CIF Central Coast Section Division III championship for the second year in a row. Pacific Grove also ended the season as our No. 1 team in Division IV.

A graduate of Alisal High in Salinas, Ruiz played in college before getting his coaching career going as an assistant at Alisal and then Hartnell College before taking over with the Breakers back in 2005.

While at Alisal, one of the teams there suffered through an 0-28 season. It was the exact opposite in 2013 at PG. The 31-0 record now stands No. 2 on the all-time state list for best undefeated season behind the 2004 Chatsworth squad that went 35-0.

In his eight seasons, Ruiz has an overall record of 142-85-1. Among the other honors he has received this off-season is being named CCS Coach of the Year by Prep2Prep and The Salinas Californian All-County Coach of the Year.

Ironically, the last CCS coach to be selected as Small Schools State Coach of the Year in baseball was Craig Schoof from Menlo School of Atherton. Schoof’s team was the one that Ruiz’s team had to beat in that last game to end 31-0.

All-Time List Cal-Hi Sports
State Baseball Coaches Of The Year

2013 — Jeff Carlson, Elk Grove (29-5)
2012 — Steve Vickery, Lakeside El Capitan (31-7)
2011 — John Goulding, Union City James Logan (24-4)
2010 — Tom Donald, Clovis Buchanan (29-5)
2009 — Pete Jensen, San Mateo Serra (30-6)
2008 — Jeff Phillips, La Mesa Grossmont (29-7)
2007 — John Diatte, San Jose Valley Christian (33-4)
2006 — Spud O’Neil, Lakewood (29-5-1)
2005 — Bill Hutton, San Jose Mitty (28-6)
2004 — Rick Steen, Danville San Ramon Valley (25-8)
2003 — Justin Machado, Carlsbad La Costa Canyon (32-1)
2002 — Dave Currie, Santa Clara Wilcox (34-3)
2001 — Tom Muesborn, Chatsworth (31-2)
2000 — Harry Jenkins, Torrance West (29-2)
1999 — Joe Walters, Santa Ana Calvary Chapel (27-1-1)
1998 — James Patrick, Clovis (33-2)
1997 — Dave Brunell, Santa Maria St. Joseph (29-0)
1996 — Dennis Pugh, San Diego Mission Bay (29-5)
1995 — Dave Demarest, Westminster La Quinta (28-3-1)
1994 — Ron LaRuffa, Fountain Valley (27-3-1)
1993 — Mike Maio, Woodland Hills El Camino Real (24-2)
1992 — Dan Peters, Long Beach Millikan (22-5-1)
1991 — Jeff Meredith, La Mesa Grossmont (28-1)
1990 — Mickey McNamee, San Marino (23-2-1)
1989 — Sam Blalock, San Diego Mt. Carmel (25-2)
1988 — Chris Sims, Moraga Campolindo (24-5)
1987 — Don Ardissone, San Jose Bellarmine (26-7)
1986 — Mike Curran, Anaheim Esperanza (25-3-1)
1985 — Dave Perkins, Hanford (23-5)
1984 — Darryl Stroh, Granada Hills (16-2-1)
1983 — Larry Quirico, El Cerrito (27-1)
1982 — Jim Garrett, Tulare (21-5)
1981 — Guy Anderson, Rancho Cordova (28-8)
1980 — Mike Noakes, Fresno Bullard (29-2)
1979 — John Bachman, Covina (27-3)
1978 — Al Endriss, Larkspur Redwood (30-5)
1977 — Lou Zuardo, South S.F. El Camino (28-1)
1976 — John Herbold, Lakewood (22-4-1)
1975 — Jack Hannah, Fresno Hoover (29-2)
1974 — Jim O’Brien, Torrance North (26-6-1)
1973 — John Stevenson, El Segundo (30-5)
1972 — Hi LaValle, Compton Dominguez (22-4-1)
1971 — Denny Holt, Sepulveda Monroe (19-0)
1970 — Dan Bodary, Lompoc (27-1)
1969 — Bob Myers, Long Beach Millikan (21-6)
1968 — Bill Sandback, San Diego Crawford (21-7)
1967 — Marvin Wood, Torrance Bishop Montgomery (27-3)
1966 — Bill Cox, Oakland St. Elizabeth (23-5)
1965 — Al Exton, Arcadia (21-4)
1964 — Bob Zuber, Van Nuys Birmingham (18-1)
1963 — Bill Kelly, Redondo Beach Aviation (20-3)
1962 — Dick Sperbeck, Sacramento Bishop Armstrong (22-2)
1961 — Elmo Ferrari, Ojai Villanova (17-0)
1960 — Jake Abbott, Fresno Roosevelt (20-2)
1959 — Howard Johnson, Inglewood Morningside (20-6)
1958 — Ken Proctor, Ontario Chaffey (20-5)
1957 — Ollie Bidwell, Fresno (22-2)
1956 — Bill Ziegler, Eureka (18-0)
1955 — Bob Patterson, Vallejo (20-1)
1954 — Ed Grimm, Redding Shasta (14-0)
1953 — Charles Doyle, Compton (23-2)
1952 — George Powles, Oakland McClymonds (16-0)
1951 — Cliff Perry, Sacramento McClatchy (22-0-1)
1950 — Harry Brubaker, L.A. Dorsey (17-0*)
1949 — Al Kyte, Oakland Technical (8-2, League)
1948 — Len Porterfield, Santa Maria (16-2)
1947 — Cliff Meyer, Long Beach Wilson (20-3)
1946 — Walt Williams, San Jose (17-2)
1945 — Pop Elder, S.F. Mission (10-0, League)
1944 — Bob Fatjo, San Jose Bellarmine (13-2)
1943 — Les Haserot, L.A. Fremont (13-1)
1942 — Roy Engle, San Diego Hoover (13-0 vs. Prep Teams)
1941 — Ras Johnson, S.F. Galileo (12-1*)
1940 — George Wolfman, S.F. Mission (11-1*)
1939 — Dewey Morrow, San Diego (22-5)
1938 — George Sperry, Glendale
1937 — Bernie Baumeister, S.F. Commerce (12-2, League)
1936 — Lyle Kinnear, Long Beach Polytechnic (23-2)
1935 — Ed Combatalade, Sacramento (20-1)
1934 — Myles Regan, L.A. Cathedral (13-5-1)
1933 — Kit Carlson, Santa Maria (9-1)
*League and playoff record

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @CalHiSports


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  1. [...] Pacific Grove’s Gil Ruiz, after leading the Breakers to a 31-0 record, is the Cal-Hi Sports’ small schools coach of the year. [...]

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