Sierra College captures state baseball title

By: Scott Johnston Special to Gold Country News Service
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It was 5:45 on Monday evening in Fresno and Sierra College athletic director John Volek had a problem every AD would love to share. Watching from the stands as the Wolverines lifted the school’s first California Community College State Baseball Championship trophy, Volek’s thoughts turned to rocks; particularly those of the large granite variety. In what has become a familiar occurrence in the years since Volek’s arrival, the lawn near the Rocklin’s campus’ gym will need to make room for yet another gigantic grey slab. “Those things cost about $1,000,” said Volek of the inscribed pieces of granite the school uses to commemorate each of its state champions. “But the Wolverine Athletic Association loves buying them.” In addition to baseball, Sierra has claimed state titles in basketball (1999), tennis (2007) and wrestling (2007). With the Wolverines (39-15) knocking off Southwestern (40-14) of Chula Vista 6-2 to take care of their end of the bargain, it’s now up to Volek and head coach Rob Willson to find a home for the new arrival. “I’ve already asked Rob what he wanted to do with it,” said Volek. “And he’s got about three different spots picked out. Narrowing it down is gonna be the hard part now, but it’s going to be fun.” After cruising through its first two games Saturday (6-3 over No. 1 seed Southwestern) and Sunday (a 6-1 win by Rocklin High grad Jeremy Cole over 2007 champion Riverside) Sierra needed just one win Monday to secure the title. Things didn’t go as planned in game one as Southwestern capitalized on four errors to post a 7-3 win at Fresno City College. Forced with a winner-take-all nightcap, Sierra ace Cameron Ray took the ball after throwing 113 pitches two days prior. Despite four more errors behind him, Ray (12-3) completed 5 1/3 innings, allowing just one unearned run on two hits, walking none and striking out three before yielding to Josh Crockett. As has been the norm throughout the postseason, Crockett did the rest, allowing just one run on four hits and striking out four for his tenth save of the season. “After dropping the first one we came out hungry in the second,” said Crockett when reached by phone. In the background his teammates broke into a ragged version of Queen’s ‘We are the champions’. “It’s surreal right now, it just hasn’t sunk in and I don’t know when it will.” Posting a 2-0 record, Ray, who was recently named as an All-America, was given the tournament’s most valuable player award. The sophomore allowed four runs (three earned) over 12 1/3 total innings with five strikeouts and a 2.19 ERA. Sierra’s first run came in the second inning when Ryan Fox reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on a single to right by Alex Anicich. In the third, Kyle Saukko singled and Ryan Stevens homered to give Sierra a 3-0 lead. Jesse Olsen’s sacrifice fly drove in Brian Wright in the fourth to push the Wolverines’ lead to 4-1. Sierra padded its lead in the top of the eighth when Logan Lotti led off with a single to left and advanced to third on a double to right by Stevens. An RBI single by Wright and a sacrifice fly by Anicich pushed the score to 6-1. “It still hasn’t sunk in that with 90 teams in California, we played in the last game and won it,” said Sierra assistant coach Ryan Evangelho. Offensively, Sierra was led by All-America Logan Lotti (8-for-19, three RBI), Kyle Saukko (7-19), Ryan Knox (5-9, three RBI), Brian Wright (5-9, two RBI) and Ryan Stevens (6-15, five RBI).