St. Mary’s Breaks Title Drought

Players and coaches from St. Mary’s of Stockton react after they were just given a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section blue banner for winning the D1 title in baseball. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Rams storm back from early 1-0 deficit to beat Rocklin, 6-1, on Thursday night to grab their first CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 title since 2012. State’s No. 8 team also probably will be seeded no lower than No. 2 in next week’s CIF NorCal D1 regional playoffs due to No. 5 Valley Christian’s upset loss earlier this week in the Central Coast Section.

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Teams from the southern part of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section don’t often win Division I championships in baseball. But when one does it’s usually been the team from St. Mary’s of Stockton.

Buoyed from an early season win over two-time defending CIF Northern California D1 champion De La Salle of Concord, the Rams won their first D1 section title since 2012 on Thursday night at Sacramento City College with a 6-1 victory over Rocklin. Teams that have won D1 section titles since then have all been from the north, including Franklin of Elk Grove from last year and those from Elk Grove that have helped that school send several players to the major leagues.

“Obviously, it feels great,” said St. Mary’s head coach Jason Lindholm, who is in his first year leading the program. “We’ve had a group we thought that could do this all year long. Every time we’ve been down we’ve also shown we can battle back.”

St. Mary’s standout Tanner Grove gets deserved media attention after he struck out nine in a section final. Photo: Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.

The Rams didn’t have to travel far in 2012 to win their title, which was clinched with a second win in a best-of-three series against Franklin held at University of the Pacific in Stockton. Their travel this year was to Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills in a best-of-three semifinal series last week, which the Rams won 2-0 by winning the second game on the road. They had won the first game at home.

The format in the SJS in recent years has been a one-game final after a best-of-three semifinal. Franklin, the defending champion, was ousted by Rocklin last week after an incredible comeback. The Thunder had lost the first game to the Wildcats and were behind 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning in the second game before they rallied to tie it, 4-4, and then won 5-4 in extra innings. Rocklin then won in the third game, 7-2.

In Thursday’s game, St. Mary’s looked to add on too many runs to thwart a possible comeback. A two-run single in the bottom of the fourth inning by leading position player Michael Quedens (Michigan) gave the Rams a 6-1 lead. The lead could have been just 2-1 the way that junior Tanner Grove was throwing, however, as he became the third straight junior to have a dominant outing in an SJS D1 final.

Grove, a 6-foot, 195-pounder with a linebacker build who has committed to Washington, ended with nine strikeouts and five hits allowed in a complete game. Nic Abraham of Franklin pitched similarly in last year’s section final and Jace Gilmore as a junior at Whitney of Rocklin in 2022 did the same in a 2-1 win over McClatchy of Sacramento and State Player of the Year Malcolm Moore.

“He just gets into that second gear,” Lindholm said of his team’s ace. “The competitor in him has been just fierce in every outing.”

Rocklin (24-10), which won the Sierra Foothill League title this year over Whitney, Granite Bay (NorCal Boras Classic champion) and others and had moved up to No. 16 in this week’s Cal-Hi Sports State Top 35 rankings, jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top the third inning. Mason Paranick singled with one out, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a two-out double just over the St. Mary’s outfielder’s head by Ethan Brown.

St. Mary’s responded immediately in the bottom of the third. The first two batters reached on a walk and on a single, then sophomore Brady Errecart singled to right. Two runs scored on the play when a throw from the catcher trying to get an out at second base skipped away for an error. Dax Hardcastle, also a sophomore, then hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.

Quedens had his two-run single in the bottom of the fourth. That came after Alex Escalante and Grove had singled and after Escalante had scored on a wild pitch.

With the win, St. Mary’s improved to 28-5 and should move up in next week’s state rankings from No. 8 since No. 5 Valley Christian of San Jose was upset earlier this week in the CIF Central Coast Section D1 semifinals by Archbishop Mitty.

Both Quedens and Lindholm agreed that the early win over De La Salle gave the Rams a jolt of confidence that they’ve had ever since.

“Huge, huge,” Lindholm said. “We were down 2-0 and came back to win 3-2. We played the best and came out on top.”

On Friday, the Rams are looking for De La Salle to win its seventh straight CIF North Coast Section title in a matchup vs state No. 3 Granada of Livermore. With Valley Christian not winning in the CCS and if DLS were to win in the NCS, St. Mary’s would then be in position to be the top seed for the CIF NorCal D1 regional playoffs. Those seedings and pairings will be announced Sunday. Top seeds in the regionals don’t travel at all. Every possible game would be at home.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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