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  • Andy Alfaro / Bee file, 2011

    The Thundering Herd's Rowdy Tellez, who has verbally committed to USC, is the region's most feared cleanup hitter.

  • Andy Alfaro / Bee file, 2011

    Elk Grove's Dom Nunez can play any infield position, and his catching skills intrigue college and pro scouts.

  • Joe Davidson

High school baseball preview: Elk Grove looks formidable

Published: Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Thursday, Mar. 14, 2013 - 7:39 am

Rowdy Tellez scanned the outfield fence Monday at Elk Grove High School and picked a spot for another banner.

Tellez, the 6-foot-4 slugging first baseman, said the Thundering Herd is good enough to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I baseball championship. And the Herd certainly looks the part, with a lineup of strong hitters and ace David Smith.

Elk Grove is No. 1 in The Bee's first poll of the season. And MaxPreps has the Herd ranked No. 7 nationally.

"We want to put up a 2013 title out there," Tellez said. "We have the offense, the defense, the pitching, the coaching to do it."

Tellez, The Bee's Player of the Year last season, and catcher-infielder Dom Nunez are four-year starters who reached the section D-I final in 2010, but they have been squeezed out the past two years as the region has become increasingly more competitive.

"This is our last hurrah," Tellez said of the senior group that includes Smith, 6-0 last season with a no-hitter against Napa. "We want to show that Elk Grove is the top team in Northern California, but we know we have a lot of work to do."

Tellez, who has verbally committed to USC, is the most feared cleanup man in the region again after hitting .568 with seven homers, eight doubles, 47 RBIs and 31 runs in 2012.

Nunez, the No. 3 hitter, batted .429 with 10 doubles, nine triples and 29 RBIs. Nunez, who has verbally committed to UCLA, can play any infield position, and his skills behind the plate intrigue college and pro scouts.

The outfield is anchored by Derek Hill, who batted .451 last season.

Nunez said Saturday's 4-0 victory over state-ranked Valley Christian of San Jose – despite Nunez and Tellez going hitless – is an indication of how good Elk Grove is. Smith earned the win, and infielder Nick Madrigal drove in two runs.

The pitching staff also includes sophomore left-handers Chris Martin and Ty Madrigal, Nick's twin.

"To beat a great team like that with the 3 and 4 hitters going 0-fer, that really showed me something," Nunez said. "I love the young guys we have. They're really good, and they're fearless."

Elk Grove, which has had one of the most successful baseball programs since the 1960s, is aiming for its 20th league championship since 1986 (10th since 2001) and ninth D-I North title. The Herd three-peated as section champions from 2005 to 2007.

"We have potential and upside and a lot of talent," 13th-year coach Jeff Carlson said. "It's been a great cycle, but we have a tough league (Delta Valley Conference), and the playoffs will be tougher than ever."

The DVC includes three other teams ranked in The Bee's Top 20: No. 3 Davis; No. 6 Franklin, which won the D-I North title last season; and No. 10 Grant.

The D-I playoffs now include the Sierra Foothill League, which features No. 2 Woodcreek, No. 5 Granite Bay and No. 8 Rocklin.

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