Joe Davidson

Buffalo Bills, they’re not: Christian Brothers wins first baseball title

Christian Brothers High School’s baseball team won its first Sac-Joaquin Section banner, beating Oakdale on Monday in Lodi for the Division III title.
Christian Brothers High School’s baseball team won its first Sac-Joaquin Section banner, beating Oakdale on Monday in Lodi for the Division III title. Christian Brothers High School

Legacies are a big thing in athletics – good, bad, mixed or otherwise.

So imagine the glee for Christian Brothers High School baseball coach Rich Henning when his upstart Falcons capped a season with euphoria after so many moments of championship despair.

Christian Brothers beat Oakdale 5-2 on Monday night at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III banner, the program’s first after some tauntingly and agonizingly close finales.

The Falcons (29-2) lost the Division I title game in 1988, the D-II championship in 2002, 2004 and 2014 and last season in D-III. They’re champions at long last.

“Big sense of relief,” said Henning, a 1978 CB graduate who took this quest personal. “We came so close last year and came back this season at full strength. They had a mission to accomplish and they did it.

“We didn’t want to be the Buffalo Bills of baseball. We needed a win.”

The Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 1990s.

Diego Black hit a grand slam in the third inning and scored the final run. And the catcher threw out a runner to spark the Falcons. His battery mate, Tanner Cunha, tossed a complete game, striking out six, including the side in the seventh and final inning to cap his senior season with a 10-2 record.

“Tanner and Diego came through,” Henning said. “They definitely came through. All of the guys did.”

Said Black of Cunha, “That dude knows how to bear down. He lets his defense work behind him. He’s a helluva pitcher.”

During the celebration scene, Henning thought of his CB coach, the late Ron Limeberger. And he thought of his late American Legion and CB basketball coach, Joe Gill, whose wife, Janet, and son, Tom, attended the game, as did Limeberger’s son, Mark.

“It means a lot to me that they were all there,” Henning said. “Joe Gill taught me a slider that helped me play three seasons of pro ball (in the 1980s). I’m thankful for that experience.

Henning added that his wife, Debbie, won two section titles as the CB girls golf coach, “so I’m still behind her.”

It was the seventh section title this academic year for CB, the most for one year in school history.

Elk Grove football – Two big regional football names are interviewing this week for the Elk Grove football post, one that Chris Nixon held for nine successful seasons before he stepped down.

Ed Lombardi and John Heffernan are in the running. Lombardi coached Elk Grove to championship success in the 1980s and ’90s and retired following the 2009 season at Sheldon after winning more than 200 career games with a reputation as one of the section’s all-time great coaches. He has been a substitute teacher at Sheldon since retirement.

Heffernan has built Burbank into a powerhouse in his 13 seasons, including 12 successive playoff teams.

Roseville boys volleyball – Roseville beat Bellarmine 3-1 to win the CIF Division I Northern California boys volleyball championship on Saturday in Dublin. It’s as far as boys advance in this sport.

The Tigers rolled through the playoffs, beating Kennedy 3-0, Nevada Union 3-0 and Whitney 3-0 in section play, and then taking out Bay Area powers De La Salle of Concord 3-0, Saint Francis of Mountain View 3-1 in NorCal action, and then defending champion Bellarmine of San Jose to finish 37-7. Roseville capped the season with a 10-match winning streak and became the first school outside the Central Coast Section to win the D-I title.

Roseville was led by seniors Zach Mancha, Tommy Morin and junior Jacob Cole, each of whom credited coach Marco Salcedo.

“I don’t think we actually expected to win NorCal heading into this season,” Cole told The Mercury News of San Jose. “Once we reached the playoffs we just kept growing confidence and weren’t intimidated by any team.”

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD