Three years ago, Dom Nunez and Rowdy Tellez absorbed a championship baseball beatdown in the final weekend of the season. They vowed to grow from the experience and to some day reverse the outcome.
From freshman starters new to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoff grind to senior leaders who thrive in the big-stage moment for the Elk Grove Thundering Herd, Nunez and Tellez were good on their word. And then some.
They emphatically delivered in their high school swan song, each belting home runs, and then leading the dog-pile mound celebration following an 11-2 rout of St. Mary's to clinch the Division I title on a steamy Saturday afternoon at Sacramento City College.
The Herd (29-5) derailed the three-time defending champion Rams (20-14) of Stockton in winning the program's seventh large-school title and fifth under coach Jeff Carlson since 2003. The St. Mary's three-peat started with a clinching 20-13 Game 2 win over Elk Grove in 2010 with Tellez and Nunez in the lineup.
"We got this far as freshmen and got it handed to us. We didn't want that to happen again," Tellez said. "We worked our butts off. It took 30 kids to do this. Awesome. We did it."
This was the Herd's first appearance in the section final since the loss three years ago.
The smooth-hitting, left-handed, 6-foot-4 Tellez had four hits, including two doubles and a two-run blast that cleared the 365-foot right-center fence for a 3-0 lead in the third. His 176 career RBIs are a Northern California record, according to Cal-Hi Sports.
Tellez had 14 hits in Elk Grove's 7-0 playoff romp this spring in one of the great hitting displays in the tournament's 45-year history, including three towering home runs. Tellez is a projected high draft pick this week, and he was to board a plane this morning for a workout at Dodger Stadium. He'll also work out for the A's today and Monday with the Giants.
"Someone said, 'Don't forget us if you make it to the big leagues,' and I said, 'I went to high school with you for four years, the time of our lives. (I'll) never forget you.' "
Nunez was the stabilizing presence at catcher this season, enhancing his own draft stock. He worked well with Herd co-ace seniors in David Smith, who won four playoff games at Union Stadium, and Mikey Wright (7-0), who was 2-0 in the playoffs, including Saturday's complete-game five-hitter.
Like his buddy Tellez, Nunez heaped praise on the entire team, particularly the aces.
"Our pitchers were dominant, and it was an honor to catch those guys," Nunez said.
Up 3-0, Elk Grove broke open Game 2 with five runs in the fifth and three in the seventh. The defense was bolstered by a sophomore infield of shortstop Nick Madrigal, second baseman Carlos Moseley (three hits, two RBIs) and third baseman Landon Gastelum. Junior center fielder Derek Hill had three hits, and freshman designated hitter Dylan Carlson, son of the coach, had an RBI hit that gave the Herd a 6-0 lead in the fifth. The Herd had 17 hits.
Coach Carlson praised his coaching staff, including the retiring Dave Pinckney, whose three sons played for Carlson over the years.
Carlson said his wife provided inspiration.
"It's all for her, what we've done," Carlson said of Caryn, a breast cancer survivor who in the last year also battled a virus that attacked her spine. Her wheelchair didn't keep her from attending games with young son Tanner.
"The coaches were there for me and the team when I needed to be with her," he said. "A special group."