Baseball: Rocklin loses bid for championship

Battle against Roseville goes to last inning
By: Andrew Hazard, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Down 4-2 in the seventh inning with two outs and runners on first and second, Rocklin High’s Ty Kennedy stepped to the plate. Kennedy hit a blast to left field, but Roseville senior left-fielder Garrett Nunally made a great catch to end the game. And with that the Thunder’s bid for the Division II CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Baseball Championship was over. Rocklin head coach Roc Murray said it was one of the most exciting high school baseball games he has been involved in during his 18 seasons with the Thunder. “It was a tremendous game. They scored four and we had to battle back to get two,” Murray said. “It was just a great game. Both teams played well, they just played a little better than we did and that was it.” Murray said the atmosphere at Sacramento City College’s Union Stadium on Monday was tremendous. “The stands were completely packed. Both sides of the stands were standing and cheering through the last two innings. They didn’t even sit down,” he said. “It was blue on one side and orange and black on the other.” The Tigers jumped out to an early lead over Rocklin and never looked back. “Our kids kept hanging in there and kept working. They came up a little short, but they didn’t give up,” Murray said. “They did everything they could do. I was very proud of them.” The Thunder finished the regular season with a 20-10 overall record and a 10-5 league record to earn them a spot in the playoffs against Bella Vista High School. After defeating the Broncos 7-3 in the first round, Rocklin faced another Fair Oaks high school in Del Campo. The Thunder outscored the Cougars 16-3 in a double-elimination series to move on to the section championship against Roseville. Murray said it was a challenge just to reach the title game. “The two teams that we have played have been very good teams. Both teams did things offensively and defensively to us, which helped us be a better team as we moved along in the playoffs,” he said. “We are a better team today than when we started the playoffs.” At one point in the season Rocklin was only 7-5 and a shot at the section championship seemed unlikely. Murray said he was not surprised his team recovered from its lull in the middle of the season. “Our kids were unflappable and they just kept working and kept doing the best they could,” he said. “Eventually it started to payoff for them.” With 28 kids on the roster, the Thunder had many players have standout performances throughout the season. “It’s hard to tell their story in one discussion; it’s hard to tell their story in one article because there are so many contributors and so many contributing factors,” Murray said. Of those 28 players, 16 are seniors. It’s the most seniors Murray has had on a team during his tenure with the Thunder. Murray said Monday was the last game his seniors will play for Rocklin but their relationship with the baseball program is just beginning. “I told our seniors it might be over but you’ll always be in our family,” he said. “We had a lot of alumni there tonight. It is all a big family.” He went on to say that no matter if they won or lost, Murray was pleased with the fact his veterans always gave it their all. “Every last one of them did their job the whole year. They’re just great kids in every way possible,” Murray said. “They did exactly what they were supposed to do all of the time. They worked hard (and) they pulled together.” Murray said he is really excited for next season even though the Thunder will lose a lot of senior leadership. “We have really, really good pitching, we’ll be able to defend pretty well,” he said. “We have some good young kids coming up so our future is still bright. They’re just another good group of kids.” Murray said winning is great but measuring how each player has grown as young man is also important. “These are kids who do what their supposed to do inside and outside of the classroom. I constantly have teachers and other staff members come up to me and tell me what great kids they are,” he said. “Preparation is not just on the baseball field or the batters box, it’s how they handle themselves all of the time. We aren’t perfect, we make mistakes but that’s what we try to do.”