Joe Davidson

Elk Grove looks to add to section record for D-I baseball titles

Alex Zalasky will start Game 1 of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship series against Tracy.
Alex Zalasky will start Game 1 of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship series against Tracy.

The mandate is to eat well, hydrate often and get plenty of rest.

Even though the high schools are out on summer break, Elk Grove and Tracy will meet in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I baseball championship series that starts Friday at 7 p.m. at University of the Pacific in Stockton. But with temperatures expected to top 100 degrees during the best-of-three series, both teams will be competing against more than each other.

Game 1 is Friday night at Pacific, with Game 2 on Saturday re-scheduled for a 10 a.m. start to avoid the oppressive heat. A third game would follow, if needed.

“The kids have been great,” Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson said of his team’s focus in practice this week. “They show up on time, ready to work. My concern is their sleep pattern. Now that school’s out, guys are staying up late, sleeping in late, and that can wear you out. And they need good nutrition and hydration. Stay away from sodas, guys.”

Alex Zalasky has absorbed the message and is spreading the word. The recently graduated ace will start Game 1.

“The big thing this whole week has been to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Tons of water,” Zalasky said. “And get good sleep. If we’re up until 3 a.m., it’ll mess us up. We can have all the fun we want – after the season.”

Zalasky comes from good baseball pitching stock. His father, Pat, was a star pitcher for the Airport Little League All-Star team that reached the 1983 Little League World Series. Pat pitched at McClatchy High, Sacramento City College and Sacramento State. He watches all of his son’s outings.

Zalasky is part of a group of seniors who have grown up playing baseball. This is their final hurrah.

He joins slugger Dylan Carlson (the coach’s son), outfielder Ryan Robards. infielder Aaron Wong and catcher Erek Bolton in a group that has played together since they were 10 and 11 years old.

“It’s great to be here with them, and we have a chance to finish it off the right way,” Zalasky said. “This is the last time we get to play together. It’ll be bittersweet, but fun.”

Elk Grove (24-9), the defending D-I champion, seeks its third banner in four seasons. The Thundering Herd has won a section-record eight D-I titles, with 10 section championships overall. Under coach Carlson, Elk Grove seeks its seventh title since 2002.

Tracy (25-7) is new to this venture.

The Bulldogs beat Elk Grove 5-4 in extra innings on March 21 in the Boras Baseball Classic at Sacramento State, and they dethroned seven-time defending D-I South champion St. Mary’s of Stockton last weekend to advance to the finals for the first time.

Tracy is hitting .326, with Lee Brewer driving in 29 runs, Kevin Saenz 27 and Cameron Hoff 26. Thomas Greely is 8-0 on the mound, Cody Bolton 7-1 and Noah Denoyer 5-3.

Zalasky is 6-2, having lost late in the season to Delta League rival Davis 2-1 and in the D-I North playoffs to Oak Ridge 2-1 at Sac City. Zalasky, who graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average and is headed to Concordia University in Irvine, earned a measure of revenge by recording the final outs of a 6-2 win over Oak Ridge the North title game. The win went to Christian Scott.

Dylan Carlson likely will start Game 2 against Tracy. He is 5-0, Scott 4-1, Riley Lamb 3-3 and Robards 2-1. The Herd’s pitching depth, strong defense and clutch pinch hitting, by Bryce Jamias and designated hitter Kevin Kyle, allowed it to battle through the losers’ bracket of the North tournament.

Carlson is batting .398 with 13 doubles, eight home runs and 34 RBIs. Had Elk Grove been eliminated last weekend, the younger Carlson would have been on the road this week for predraft workouts with the Giants, Dodgers, Angels and Padres. Those sessions are being rescheduled. He will work out for the A’s in Oakland on Monday.

Elk Grove’s Robards is batting .388 with 30 RBIs, Mason Breiphol .347 and nine, Wong .314 and 17, and Josh Urps .310 and 25.

“Tracy has an outstanding team, and we can’t underestimate them because they’ve beaten us,” coach Carlson said. “That would be the wrong thing to do. We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Throw strikes, play good defense, and we’ll be fine.”

Joe Davidson: 916-321-1280, @SacBee_JoeD