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Miners, Bruins start playoffs

Both the Nevada Union and Bear River baseball teams will face must-win situations Saturday when they open in the Sac-Joaquin Section baseball playoffs in Sacramento.

Nevada Union (19-8 overall, 14-4 for second-place in the Metro Conference) faces Jesuit (21-7) at 10 a.m. in the first round of the section Division I tournament at American River College. Bear River (22-1 overall, 11-1 Pioneer Valley League co-championship) plays Vanden (19-3) at noon in the first round of the Division III tournament at Dan McAuliffe Memorial Park near California State University, Sacramento.

Both games figure to be good tests, especially since one loss and you’re out on “Suicide Saturday.”



Nevada Union won seven straight conference games down the stretch to wrest the Metro’s No. 2 seed away from Granite Bay. The two teams finished tied for second-place, but Nevada Union earned the tie-breaker by taking two of three games from Granite Bay during the regular season.

The Miners will face a formidable challenge from Jesuit, a team that went 13-1 to start the season and won six of eight down the stretch to capture second-place in the Delta League. The Marauders have faced some quality opponents along the way – losing 10-7 to Florida power Palm Beach Central, beating Riverside Poly 10-4 and beating Deer Valley (Antioch) 10-4 at the Phil Nevin National Baseball Classic in Anaheim, losing to Delta League and section champion Elk Grove 7-6, and beating Elk Grove Franklin 5-4 to clinch the Delta’s No. 2 seed on May 11.




Among the players to watch for the Marauders is Lars Anderson, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior first baseman who was listed on USA Baseball’s 2005 Junior National Team and has signed with Cal-Berkeley. Anderson is hitting .451 with 42 RBIs and a state-best 14 home runs this season.

” They’re a real good ballclub, but I think if we come out and play well, we have as good a shot as anyone,” said coach Ted White, whose Miners are appearing in the playoffs for the third time in four years. “Now, it’s a whole new season so we’ve just got to go out and play well.

The Miners counter with a balanced lineup led by catcher Daniel Graning (.346), Josh Noxon (.342), sophomore Kelcey Wirick (.341) and Nic Gauldin (.338). Gauldin has a team-high 27 RBIs and 10 doubles.

Gauldin (6-2, 1.38 earned run average) will start on the mound today. Dan Stith (4-0, 0.90 ERA), a 6-foot-5 senior left-hander will be waiting in the wings, along with a deep pitching staff. That staff was bolstered late in the season by the return of junior Russell Brackett, who sustained a broken shinbone during the preseason.

“Getting Russell back has helped our bullpen,” White said. “Dane Devogelaere has come on to throw well lately and it looks like Zander Zeisler is back healthy again, so if we can get by Suicide Saturday, it looks like we have some arms to throw at people.”

Gauldin, Graning and Noxon were first-team all-conference selections for Nevada Union. Stith and Wirick were second-team picks. Gaulding and Graning have also been selected to play in the Optimist All-Star Game on June 10 at American River College.

Bear River comes in as a No. 2 seed into the Division III tournament and opens against Capital Valley Conference champion Vanden. Bear River coach Mike Viola admitted he knows little about the Vikings from Fairfield, however, that isn’t his primary concern.

“If the boys play as well as they can and as well as they’ve prepared, we’ll be all right. We’ll give Vanden a good game,” Viola said. “They’re going to hit the ball, we have to field it and make outs; they’re going to throw it and we have to hit it. It’s pretty simple. A lot of these seniors are educated in tournament baseball, so they’re as ready as they’re going to be.”

The main goal is to advance, since the Bruins have been knocked out on “Suicide Saturday” each of the last three years, losing each time to a team from the Valley Oak League – 2-1 against Buhach Colony (Atwater) in 2003, 7-5 against East Union (Manteca) in 2004 and 3-0 against Oakdale in 2005.

The Bruins tuned up for the postseason with a 17-5 nonconference win at home against Golden Sierra on Tuesday. Senior catcher Robby Alcombrack hit two home runs, giving him 12 for the season, on a day when everybody on the team saw action.

Alcombrack and pitcher/first baseman Tyler French were also selected to play in the Optimist All-Star large schools game on June 10.

Bear River is hitting .428 as a team on the season, with eight regulars all hitting better than .400. Alcombrack leads the way with his .578 average, French is hitting .475, Matt Miraldi .474, Matt Hilton .457, Brynn Beck .444, Ryan Giacomini .442, John Mobley .435 and A.J. Nunez .429. The pitching staff features French (10-0, 0.78 ERA, 106 strikeouts in 63 innings) and sophomore Vince Viola (8-0, 1.39).

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To contact sports editor Dave Price, e-mail davidp@theunion .com or call 477-4240.


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