Riley Lamb was at his best when it counted the most.
And for the Elk Grove High School baseball team, that was in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, when the Thundering Herd were under a proverbial microscope as the regional powerhouse bearing a target.
Lamb stood out, powering Elk Grove to a third consecutive championship as the staff ace and slugger. The USC-bound senior is The Bee’s Baseball Player of the Year for being “the guy when I had to be the guy.”
Lamb said he is humbled by the honor, knowing that older sister Morgan Lamb was The Bee’s Softball Player of the Year in 2015 and now plays on scholarship at Boise State. Morgan is her brother’s biggest fan, but she can no longer boast as being the most accomplished sibling at the dinner table.
“My sister watching me play my final games, that was great,” Riley Lamb said. “We’ve been close forever.”
Lamb overcame a slow start, as did his team. Facing state-ranked programs, Elk Grove started 1-4 and 6-7 but heated up just as their leader did. Elk Grove (23-10) finished with a seven-game winning streak, including 6-0 in the playoffs, and it won 15 of its final 16 games.
Lamb hit all three of his home runs in the playoffs at Sacramento City College, towering shots that boosted the Herd. Lamb went 6-4 on the mound in facing top teams, and was especially sharp in the playoffs when he went 3-0, striking out 25. Lamb hit .324 for the season with 25 RBIs and eight doubles.
“I struggled early in the season, definitely,” Lamb said. “It affected the team. I had to get better, to figure things out, and I did. I knew at the end, it would pay off.”
Lamb said he invites the pressure of being a leader.
“Being the team captain, the leader, it’s fun,” he said. “Being a USC guy, people doubting me, it’s all part of it. I just did my job and tried to help our team any way I could.”
Said Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson, “Riley really stepped up. He’s a big-time player going to a big-time school. He’ll only get better.”
Lamb will study business administration with the goal of becoming a sports agent.
“It’ll keep me involved in baseball, and I feel I have a lot to learn but I’d be good at it,” Lamb said. “But I’m not ready to hang it up just yet as a player. I’m just getting started.”
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Riley Lamb, Elk Grove, Sr.
Diego Black, Christian Brothers, Sr.
Darren Baker, Jesuit, Sr.
Tanner Carlson, Elk Grove, Jr.
Jack Filby, McClatchy, Jr.
Alex LeForestier, Christian Brothers, Sr.
Charles Middleton, Lincoln, Sr.
Patrick Smith, Oak Ridge, Sr.
Nathan Thimjon, Frankin, Sr.
Justin Williams, Cosumnes Oaks, Jr.
Tanner Cunha, Christian Brothers, Sr.
Jack Hinrichsen, McClatchy, Jr.
Darren Nelson, Granite Bay, Sr.
Trenton Denholm, Oak Ridge, Sr.
Tyler Pon, Capital Christian, Sr.
George Spithorst, Elk Grove, Jr.
John Lagattuta, Davis, Sr.
Ryan Holgate, Davis, Jr.
Jake Jordan, Elk Grove, Jr.
Matt Voelker, Granite Bay, Sr.
Chase Thatcher, Del Oro, Sr.
Drew Giglio, Franklin, Sr.
Sean Acrea, Oakmont, Sr.
Jeffrey Jamison, Del Campo, Jr.
Caden Laffan, Christian Brothers, Sr.
Justin Mico, McClatchy, Sr.
Andrew Williams, Whitney, Sr.
Brett Graber, Captal Christian, Jr.
David Joseph, Del Campo, Jr.
Jase Weckman, Marysville, Sr.
Xavier Carter, Capital Christian
Brian Freitas, Elk Grove, Jr.
Dylan Garrett, Laguna Creek, So.
Robert Gasser, Oak Ridge, Sr.
Justin Salisbury, Oakmont, Sr.
Aiden Taylor, Rio Americano, Jr.
John Papapietro, Inderkum, Sr.
Evan Gibbons, Franklin, Jr.
Richard Meyers, Del Oro, Sr.
Kenny LeBeau, Granite Bay, Sr.
Carlos Salaiz, Oakmont, Sr.
Kenny Williams, Elk Grove, So.
CATCHERS: Logan Appino, Cordova; Max Aubrey, Liberty Ranch; Cole Brown, Rocklin; Griffin Duisenberg, Davis; Michael Farley, El Camino; Ben Grigsby, El Dorado; Emani Jones, Del Oro; Jeremy Kolb, Elk Grove; Michael Nelsen, Vista del Lago; Hayden Reyna, Yuba City; Troy Rice, Capital Christian; Gabriel Ruelas, Monterey Trail; Andrew Sanchez, Laguna Creek; JC Santini, Woodcreek; Cameron Skattabo, Rio Linda; Jake Sullivan, San Juan; Caleb Watson, Valley Christian; Ty Williams, Lincoln.
INFIELDERS: Vinnie Bachelier, Capital Christian; Tino Bethancourt, Oak Ridge; Kordell Brown, Elk Grove; Alex Crouch, Bradshaw Christian; Joe Hagopian, Jesuit; Mike Ingram, Christian Brothers; Lane Field, Whitney; Kevin Fitzgerald, Laguna Creek; Jacob Harris, Pleasant Grove; Matt Langbehn, Folsom; Isiah Lissade, Pleasant Grove; Nick McCormick, Vista del Lago; Cody Oldwin, Del Oro; Zach Reyes, Oak Ridge; Brennan Rozell, Lincoln; Troy Shields, Jesuit; Evan Stafford, Folsom; Cole Stone, Vista del Lago; Chase Tarr, Marysville; Alex Torres, Bella Vista; Justin Williams, Cosumnes Oaks; Eric Yermenos, Capital Christian.
OUTFIELDERS: Cameron Allie, Oak Ridge; Shane Betts, Placer; Adam Hughes, Bradshaw Christian; David Jorgensen, Capital Christian; Paul Martinez, Valley; Rudy Mendoza; Jorge Montoya, Sheldon; Jared Palmyra, Lincoln; Brent Schaeffer, Vista del Lago; James Sweet, Lincoln; Jacob Tucker, Christian Brothers; Dawson Weber, Pleasant Grove; Aaron Whittle, Union Mine.
PITCHERS: Tyler Adge, Jesuit; Josh Caldwell, Cosumnes Oaks; John Cross, Oak Ridge; Connell Ellner, Pleasant Grove; Shane Ellner, Pleasant Grove; Jakob Frederick, Del Oro; Kyle Galart, Pioneer; Connor Lane, Bradshaw Christian; Ryan Marcoccia, Del Campo; Leo Martinez, Lincoln; Brooks McKeighen, Valley Christian; Brady Rodriguez, Oak Ridge; Grant Stevens, Franklin; Brian Sullivan, Marysville; Nic Wilson, Rio Americano.
UTILITY: Ryan Aguilar, Rio Linda; David Alway, Valley Christian; Larry Ansel, Del Campo; Jaime Arias-Bautista, Woodland; Carson Blatnick, Oakmont; Corey Cater, Valley Christian; Donovan Gonzalez, Valley Christian; Steven Langley, El Camino; Addison Lueras, Ponderosa; Ryan Marcoccia, Del Campo; Kade McKechnie, Christian Brothers; Brandon Motehal, Mesa Verde; Tyler Mortensen, Davis; Andrew Taylor, Christian Brothers; Chris Rogers, West Campus; Keith Walker, Rocklin; Hogan Weaver, San Juan; Dustin Wymer, Rio Linda; Shawn Zamora, Elk Grove.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Rich Henning, Christian Brothers
An alum of the school who played baseball for famed coach Ron Limeberger in the 1970s, Henning guided the Falcons to their first Sac-Joaquin Section championship, doing so in Division III to cap a 29-2 season that included regular-season victories over Division I top seed Vacaville and longtime rival Jesuit. CB had lost four times in the section finals since 2002.