After Tracy forced a third and deciding game on Saturday in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships, Elk Grove broke open a 1-1 contest in the fifth inning behind senior standouts Ryan Robards and Dylan Carlson. The Thundering Herd went on to win 8-1 and earned their third straight section title, seventh since 2002 and 10th overall.
We hope you like this free post on CalHiSports.com. Please help us out today by becoming a member of our Gold Club so you can see all of our great content. For more on special offer to get signed up for $9.99 for three months that started several months ago, CLICK HERE.
It wasn’t as if the entire day of baseball was a rousing success for Elk Grove’s top two players during Saturday’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championships that were played at University of Pacific’s Klein Family Field.
At the end of it, however, it sure was for both senior Ryan Robards and senior Dylan Carlson and their teammates. The Thundering Herd defeated Tracy 8-1 in the third and deciding game of the series following an extra-inning 2-1 loss to the Bulldogs in a morning game that forced a title-deciding third game.
Elk Grove, which won Friday’s night’s first game 14-0, couldn’t solve Tracy junior Kody Bolton on Saturday morning. The Michigan commit gave up just five hits and struck out six in eight innings of work.
The Bulldogs, who took the lead in that first game of the day in the top of the eighth when a fly ball glanced off the glove of Robards in centerfield enabled Josh Alvarado to score, also kept up their momentum to start the title-decider.
With Carlson pitching for Elk Grove, Tracy put two of its first three runners on base with a walk and single. Brett Mansell then hit a slow roller through the right side of the infield that scored Lee Brewer.
Carlson then limited the damage by getting a pop up and a soft liner to short.
With the Bulldogs still leading 1-0, Elk Grove tied it at 1-1 in the bottom of the third. It was three straight singles off of Tracy starter Thomas Greely that did the trick with Carlson getting the third one for the RBI.
Carlson settled down after that first inning and began to pile up strikeouts. He struck out the side in the top of the fifth to keep the score at 1-1 and then in the bottom of the inning the Herd broke through.
A walk drawn by Mason Briephol and a double by Aaron Wong set up the rally. Carlson was then walked intentionally to load bases, which may have only made Robards want to atone for that previous error even more.
On the first pitch from Greely, Robards unloaded with high drive over the right field wall for a grand slam and a 5-1 Elk Grove lead.
“Yeah, I was definitely looking for the ability to make up for that,” Robards said. “When they intentionally walked Dylan, I knew it was over. I was not going to miss.”
Carlson wasn’t about to lead a lead like that go away and continued to set down the Bulldogs. Then in the sixth, he came up with two runners on (Greely had been replaced by Brewer) and launched an impressive shot over the 405-foot marker in center field for the three-run homer.
“It was awesome to go out like that,” said Carlson, who ended the game with 10 strikeouts and four RBI. “I’ve just been very lucky to play in this program. It’s been really enjoyable to be with everyone.”
Tracy fans took some solace from the morning win and in becoming the first team in eight years other than St. Mary’s of Stockton to advance from the south into the section final series. The Bulldogs (26-9) probably won’t finish in the State Top 20 final rankings but will appear in the special, expanded Final State Top 40.
Elk Grove (26-10) may move up a few spots from where it was in last week’s rankings (No. 18) as a three-time section champion, but it’s rare for a team with 10 losses or more from anywhere in the state to be in the final top 10.
“We were not struggling early in the season, but were adjusting,” said Elk Grove head coach Jeff Carlson, father of Dylan and our 2011 State Coach of the Year. “ We’ll also play anybody and all that does is build us up.
“At the end, we’re not worried about rankings. The point is just making them (pointing to players) better, getting them to college. That’s how programs are built.”
Carlson’s own son is scheduled to play in college at Cal-State Fullerton, but there is a lot of speculation in regards to next week’s MLB Draft. The coach is hoping for a first-round choice and thinks the best chance may be with one of the two late first-round slots owned by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Robards, meanwhile, will play next at UOP. In addition to his grand slam homer, he also made a spectacular diving catch to the end the third inning of Saturday’s second game.
“Hopefully, there will be a lot more memories to come on this field,” he said. “I’ve been trying to enjoy everything that’s happened for this senior year as much as I can.”