Brian Hamilton: How ’bout them Bruins? |

Brian Hamilton: How ’bout them Bruins?

Jack McCrory considers them going-away gifts.

But the postseason runs Bear River teams have put together this spring have The Union sports department considering the advantages of hybrid automobiles, after logging more than 1,000 miles in two weeks of covering the Bruins and their championship chases.

Yet McCrory, who will step away in a couple of weeks as the only athletic director in Bear River history, has been overjoyed in the overtime hours he’s logging on the road.

Last weekend, it was the Bear River softball squad chasing the first Sac-Joaquin Section championship in the program’s history. The fact that the team was coached by Duane Zauner, who has served alongside McCrory every step of the way in the school’s 21 years of existence, only seemed to make the section title even sweeter.

In fact, the scene in the bleachers behind home plate at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton seemed like quite the Bruin reunion.

Joining McCrory to root for Zauner and his Bruins was former principal Dick Werntz, veteran golf coach Gayne Nakano, longtime football coach Terry Logue and newly hired athletic director Duwaine Ganskie.

It was surprising a pinochle game didn’t break out between innings.

After Zauner had been drenched by a water-cooler shower – and after Bruins’ underclassmen had sent seniors Britney Ceo and Ashley Sawyer off in style with three of the best ballgames I’ve had a chance to catch in recent years – the whole south county caravan headed north to catch the Bear River baseball team make school history later that Saturday.

An 11-1, first-round win against Sonora might not seem like much to celebrate to many programs. But it meant the world to the Bruins.

In four previous trips to the section playoffs, Mike Viola had left the first-round action at Sacramento State in disappointment. Despite making headway in each of his seven seasons at the helm of the program, the Bruins had not been able to break through what had become known as “Suicide Saturday.”

And now that they’ve met that milestone, the Bruins figure why not meet even more?

Back-to-back wins against Center in white-knuckle ballgames earlier this week earned Bear River its first trip to a baseball section championship game. The Bruins, the Pioneer Valley League champions, will battle it out with Valley Oak League champ Oakdale at high noon on Memorial Day.

Two section championship banners for the wall in Bear River’s McCrory Gymnasium would be quite the sendoff for the facility’s namesake.

And, yet, the hits just keep on coming.

Over at Hughes Stadium at Sac City College this week, Bear River’s Nicole Jackson and Rachel Welz assured that a pair of Bruins will be the last western Nevada County athletes standing as the school year draws to a close.

Jackson and Welz will close their high school careers by competing at California State Championships next week. Jackson will run the 100 hurdles, while Welz will compete in both the high jump and long jump, in which they earned berths at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters Meet on Thursday and Friday.

Thankfully, for both the Bear River bandwagon and The Union sports department travel budgets, the Bear River duo will leap into state competition back at Hughes Stadium instead of Cerritos College in Orange County, where the state meet was held last year.

But no matter how far the playoff paths might run, as McCrory tells everyone who asks after his more than two decades as the school’s AD, he’s “just happy to be along for the ride.”


Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column appears Saturdays. Contact him via e-mail at or by phone at 477-4240.

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