Make no mistake about it, Elk Grove baseball coach Jeff Carlson would have preferred a sweep at the San Diego Lions tournament this past week.
But he wasn't that disappointed with the Thundering Herd's 2-2 finish, even if it likely will drop them in The Bee's area (currently No. 1) and Cal-Hi Sports' state (No. 5) rankings.
"You'd love to win for the national recognition," Carlson said. "But sometimes things don't happen that way. The key is that we have to take care of business in league."
Still, it was a nice rebound from the previous year in which Elk Grove lost all four games in the prestigious spring-break event.
"Our kids played hard and really competed," Carlson said. "We felt those who beat us were fortunate to win."
Elk Grove won its first two games, 11-6 over Bingham of Utah on Monday and a wild, entertaining 13-12 come-from-behind win over Mira Mesa of San Diego on Tuesday.
In that game, played at hitter-friendly Vista High School, Justin Charles and Zach Miller hit two-run homers in the bottom of the seventh after the Herd fell behind 12-9 in the top half of the inning. Miller's was the walk-off winner.
Charles also hit a solo home run in the first and a grand slam in the second while Miller went four for five.
The two wins guaranteed Elk Grove a trip to the semifinals, so a 11-9 loss to San Ysidro on Wednesday didn't hurt them.
Thursday's game was a gem that Eastlake of Chula Vista won 3-2 in nine innings.
Carlson said Elk Grove led 2-1 with two outs in the seventh when Eastlake got the game-tying single to tie the game.
Jake Rodriguez pitched seven strong innings before giving way to Miller in the eighth. Elk Grove was limited to three hits, although outfielder Brook Brooks hit his third home run of the tournament.
"We got ourselves into a position to win the tournament," Carlson said. "We came out and played well, but (Eastlake) got the timely hit and made some Web-gem outs."
Carlson said the game was played on a pristine diamond at Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista and that the weather was beautiful, unlike the stormy stuff that hit the Sacramento area through most of the week.
"It sprinkled briefly one time, otherwise it was 65 to 75 degrees," Carlson said.
The weather wasn't the only positive to the four-day event.
"We did a lot of things together, including taking in a Dodgers-Padres game Wednesday night," Carlson said.
Elk Grove has been going to the tournament since 1997 and Carlson says it's a great way to transition into the heart of the Delta Valley Conference season, when the games truly count for those hoping to make the postseason.
"The great thing about a tournament like this is that the kids really learn how to pitch," Carlson said. "The umpires have a little smaller strike zone, and the hitters can hit you and and hit you hard. I think our pitchers always come back having learned some valuable lessons."