Kevin Dawidczik has raved about his entire team this breakthrough baseball season for Del Campo High School.
Two players especially drew praise from the fourth-year Cougars coach: Ettman Noriega and Mason Poisson.
Those leaders played a paramount role in top-seeded Del Campo's championship march, punctuated by a 5-2 victory over Del Oro on Monday afternoon at American River College for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title.
Del Oro beat Del Campo earlier in the day 4-3 to force the second winner-take-all game, and when it was over hours later, the dog pile was on.
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It is the second D-II section banner for Del Campo, the last coming in 2013 under coach Paul Martinez, and the fourth in program history. The first two banners came in 1985 and 1995 in D-I under famed coach Harry Kawahata.
Noriega went the distance in the opener and caught Ryan Gil's complete-game effort in the title game. Gil loaded the bases in the fourth inning then got two strikeouts and induced a pop up to get out of it. Sam Hayden earned the save.
With Del Campo leading 1-0 in the fifth inning of the deciding game, Poisson laced a single up the middle to push in two runs, and he doubled in the sixth to drive in two more.
"They've been great for us," Dawidczik said of Noriega and Poisson. "(Earlier in the playoffs), Poisson made two of the best catches I've seen at the high school level. Noriega has unbelievable leadership ability."
In addition to those leaders, Del Campo was bolstered this season by Jeffrey Jamison, who "was a consistent force in the playoffs, doing things on the base paths that I've never seen," Dawidczik said. "He's never been thrown out in his high school career."
A Sacramento native who played at Johnson High and at Sacramento City College, Dawidczik's first Del Campo team went 10-15-1, then 2010, and 16-12 last season. The Cougars finished 26-6-1 this season, including a nifty march through Sierra Foothill League heavies in this postseason. Del Campo beat Granite Bay 6-5, Woodcreek 4-1 and Del Oro 5-2.
"Unbelievable," Dawidczik said. "I am surrounded by a group of young men and coaches who truly loved one another, put aside their egos and focused on finding a way. We beat five teams in the playoffs that were D-I a year ago, including the almighty SFL.
"The goal was to win the last game, and we did."
Beyer 3, Christian Brothers 2 in Stockton — In a pitchers' duel between Beyer's Ben Polack and Christian Brothers' Jacob Tucker, the Patriots pulled through by scoring all three runs in the bottom of the sixth en route to winning the school's first section baseball title.
“These were two very good teams and it came down to a few little plays at the end, and they were able to make those plays,” said Christian Brothers coach Rich Henning, whose team finished 24-7. “When there is good pitching, it comes down to little things and they did the little things at the end to win.”
The Modesto school's three previous trips to the section final resulted in losses to Sacramento-area teams Del Campo (1985), Jesuit (1996) and Davis (2000).
Capital Christian 19, El Dorado 6 in Sacramento — The Cougars of Sacramento rolled the top-seeded Cougars of Placerville at Sacramento City College to win their sixth consecutive section championship and first in Division IV, all under veteran coach Nelson Randolph.
Capital Christian, seeded fifth, avenged a previous loss in the tournament to El Dorado earlier Monday with a 10-1 rout to force a second and deciding game. Capital Christian (28-6) hammered out 33 hits in the doubleheader, including eight by Brett Graber, who earlier this postseason made a remarkable over-the-shoulder catch a la Willie Mays.
Shortstop Connor Polli had three RBI in the deciding game for Capital Christian. Teammates Tyler Ramson, Xavier Carter, Graber, Gabrile Ramirez and Tyler Renn, in order of the lineup, each drove in two runs in the clincher. Carter had a three-run homer in the first game. Jackson Grigsby had three RBI for El Dorado.
Randolph's first base coach is Guy Anderson, who has multiple titles with Capital Christian and as the section's winningest coach won four while coaching Cordova during its 1980s dynasty.
Colfax 4, Argonaut 2 in Lodi — Michael LaVigne drove in two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and had three RBIs overall, and Dakota Redfern pitched a complete-game effort to power the third-seeded Falcons to the program's first section championship.
Colfax went 3-0 in the playoffs after finishing in a three-way tie for second place behind Lincoln in the Pioneer Valley League. The Falcons finished 19-9 under second-year coach Dick Adams after going 3-15 just two seasons ago.
Ripon Christian 8, Bradshaw Christian 7 in Stockton — Jarod Vander Molen had a three-run triple in the bottom of the sixth inning and scored on an errant relay throw to lift the Knights to the program's first championship in any division. Bradshaw Christian has won five championships this decade.
Alpa Charter 9, Big Valley Christian 5 in Lodi - The Angels of Elverta, a newer program, won their first championship in school history, doing so in D-VII. Joshua Hardamon and Jonathan Kelm each drove in three runs, and Gary Gutierrez had two RBI for Alpha Charter, a baseball academy created by one-time Major League Baseball player and manager Jerry Manuel, who was a star at Cordova High School in the early 1970s and whose son Anthony Manuel assists head coach Issac Johnson.
The Modesto Bee contributed to this report.