Joe Davidson

Elk Grove baseball defying odds in playoffs, but coach offers word of warning

The Elk Grove Thundering Herd pray during last season’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North playoffs against the Oak Ridge Trojans at Sacramento City College’s Union Stadium.
The Elk Grove Thundering Herd pray during last season’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North playoffs against the Oak Ridge Trojans at Sacramento City College’s Union Stadium.

The high school sports seasons are barreling toward the finish line with baseball championship games and track and field finals highlighting Memorial Day weekend.

Thundering to the forefront is Elk Grove baseball, defying odds and conventional wisdom as it bears down on another championship.

Despite graduating most of the roster from last season, the two-time defending titlist Thundering Herd are a victory away from winning the program’s 10th Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North championship since 2002.

Elk Grove faces Davis on Friday at 4 p.m. at Sacramento City College. Davis beat Oak Ridge 1-0 in the loser's bracket final on Thursday night on a Ryan Holgate four hitter.

Elk Grove went 2-0 against Davis in Delta League play and beat the Blue Devils 8-3 on Tuesday in a semifinal. The Thundering Herd are 2-0 against Oak Ridge, a nonleague victory and a 4-1 triumph on Saturday.

Elk Grove has been led by Riley Lamb, who has two wins as the ace this postseason and has been hot at the plate. He is headed to USC. Brian Freitas earned the 10-2 win over Woodcreek in the playoffs and will start Friday.

Despite rolling in the postseason, longtime coach Jeff Carlson offers caution. A year ago on a Friday at Sac City, Oak Ridge needed only to win once in the D-I North finals to take the title, but Elk Grove beat the Trojans twice.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” Carlson said. “We have two great teams who are going to battle it out Thursday. (For us) to beat a Davis team for a fourth time, to beat Oak Ridge for a third time? I mean, that’s hard in baseball. We can’t take anything for granted.”

The D-I section finals are June 2-3 at Sac City against the South winner.

▪ In other divisions, the section finals will be held on Monday.

Sac City is the venue for D-VI (No. 1 Vacaville Christian vs. 2 Bradshaw Christian, noon), D-IV (No. 2 Lincoln vs. No. 5 Placer, 3 p.m.) and D-II (No. 1 Benicia vs. No. 3 Vanden), 6 p.m.

Zupo Field in Lodi is the venue for D-VII (No. 1 Valley Christian vs. No. 2 Venture Academy, noon), D-V (No. 1 Escalon vs. No. 2 Capital Christian), 3 p.m. and D-III (No. 1 Christian Brothers vs. No. 2 Oakdale), 6 p.m.

Softball – Five divisions of section title games will be at the Arnaiz Softball in Stockton on Friday with the lone Thursday matchup featuring No. 1 Woodland Christian vs. No. 3 Argonaut.

Go to for updated brackets and live-stream links.

Nominations – Area baseball and softball coaches are encouraged to nominate players for Bee All-Metro honors (first and second teams, honorable mention). Email suggestions and all-league teams to

Track and field – The Section Masters finals are Friday at Elk Grove with distances short and long among the featured events.

In the girls 1,600-meter run, Maddy Denner of Oak Ridge has the top-seeded time of 4 minutes, 54.11 seconds, just ahead of Olivia O’Keeffe of Davis (4:57.07).

Denner has the second-fastest 3,200 time of 10:43.14, just behind twin sister Elena, whose best is 10:39.25.

Tai McDonald of Sheldon has the only sub-12-second girls 100 time, having gone 11.86 seconds. Jurnee Woodward of Vacaville is one of the fastest 300-meter girls hurdlers in section history – her best of 40.78 overwhelmingly leading the field.

Myles Ellis of Antelope has the best 200 seed at 21.59. Delta League rivals Zachary Larrier of Monterey Trail and Jordan Tillis of Franklin have the fastest 400 times of 48.32 and 48.63, respectively.

Luis Grijalva of Armijo has the top boys 1,600 time of 4:16.23 with Michael Vernau of Davis second at 4:19.61. Vernau has the best 3,200 time of 9:15.27, and freshman Matt Strangio of Jesuit is second in 9:25.81.

Football nominations – Oak Ridge lineman Bryan Catchings and Inderkum receiver/defensive back Isaah Crocker are the only area players among 400 nominees for the 2018 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, considered the most prestigious prep all-star event in the country.

Past area players who competed in the game who reached the NFL include Arik Armstead of Pleasant Grove, James Sample and Shaq Thompson of Grant and Eddie Vanderdoes of Placer.

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD