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Tracy baseball didn’t let a late-season stumble keep it from its first SJS title Story by DOUG BENTON | Photos by JIM JOHNSON Tracy... Southern Grind

Tracy baseball didn’t let a late-season stumble keep it from its first SJS title

Story by DOUG BENTON | Photos by JIM JOHNSON

Tracy High’s baseball season followed a path that many other quality high school baseball programs endure. There were high points, hiccups and moments requiring execution of the little things and the occasional just-get-me-over fastball.

In essence, it was a grind. And few teams were better at it than the Bulldogs.

“Our philosophy is we’re going to keep playing until they tell us ‘Hey Tracy, you can’t play anymore,” Tracy coach Vic Alkire said.

His team finished May still waiting to hear that phrase, becoming the first new Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South champion since 2008 by defeating seven-time defending champion St. Mary’s-Stockton 6-4 on May 27. The win sent the Bulldogs to the three-game SJS Division I championship series against Div. I North champ Elk Grove at University of the Pacific on June 3-4.

And the Bulldogs got there doing it their way.

Bulldogs coach Val Alkire gets the water bucket treatmentSt. Mary’s jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the Division I South final by scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Tracy and St. Mary’s each tallied runs in the third inning before the pivotal fourth inning.

Tracy loaded the bases with walks to Cameron Hoff and Andrew Tavares and a beautiful bunt single from No. 9 hitter Robert Garcia. Sophomore Josh Alvarado tied the game with a two-run single that glanced off the glove of shortstop Anthony Galindo. The Bulldogs plated two more runs without another hit to take a 5-3 lead.

“Our whole thing is ‘you don’t have to win the game for us,’” Alkire said. “Each guy’s only job is to get the next guy up. We put the ball in play, they made a couple of miscues, but putting the ball in play was (the) job.”

Behind starting pitcher Cody Bolton, who retired nine of 10 batters at one point, Tracy held the lead the rest of the way. However, the drama wasn’t over. St. Mary’s loaded the bases in the sixth inning before Bolton got the biggest of his four strikeouts on a two-seam fastball.

“He’s very good,” Alkire said. “He wasn’t his best today. He would tell you that.

“When he’s not at his best, he’s one of those guys that grinds it out, grinds it out and before you know it it’s the seventh inning and he’s still out there. That’s who he is.”

Bolton’s complete game was the fourth straight seven-inning start for the Bulldogs, the best way to navigate the double-elimination format.

The title — Tracy’s first section-related title of any kind — is a long time coming for the program and Alkire, who is in his 23rd year at his alma mater (1962 graduate). He is assisted by former Tracy players in Tony Crivello, Chris Anklam and Kenny Serrano. Former James Logan head coach John Goulding joined the staff this year.

“We talked about it as coaches. To coach at your alma mater, it makes it extra special, Crivello said. “My brother is in the stands. All my family. This becomes kind of a big deal for us.

“It’s even sweeter because Vic and I have become really good friends. I came back (to coaching at Tracy) because I felt like we had unfinished business. This is what I felt we had unfinished business. We were knocking on the door for quite a few years. This is why I came back to do high school.”

Cody Bolton fires a pitch during the Div. I South finalIt has been a collective effort throughout the spring for the Bulldogs. Senior Thomas Greeley was a perfect 8-0 with a 1.69 ERA prior to the team’s three-game Division I finals series with Elk Grove. Bolton, who is committed to Michigan, was 7-1 with a 2.11 ERA. Senior Noah Denoyer wasn’t far behind at 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA. The Bulldogs also boast a balanced offensive attack with four players tallying at least 20 RBI, led by junior Lee Brewer with 29 RBI in addition to nine home runs.

“It means a lot,” Bolton said of winning Tracy’s first South title. “Just proves we work hard at what we do.”

The path to the school’s first title wasn’t an easy one, which included five wins to get through the southern half of the Division I bracket. Tracy won its first six games entering the Boras Baseball Classic, where it beat host Elk Grove in the opening game. A 2-2 showing at the premier tournament in Northern California elevated the Bulldogs to one of the best teams in the region.

Fast forward to mid-April and a three-game series against the Rams with the Tri-County Athletic League title likely going to the victor. After splitting the first two games, St. Mary’s won the finale 12-11 with four runs in the seventh inning, including a bases-clearing triple by Jarron Silva. The Bulldogs followed up the defeat losing two of three games against Lincoln-Stockton to finish third in league and receiving the No. 6 seed in the playoffs.

“Our message was we may not be able to win league now, but our season’s not over,” Alkire said. “We started trying to bring them back up. They were stunned, but we just tried to say there is nothing we can do about that.”

The team responded and carried a nine-game winning streak into the overall Division I championship series against Elk Grove, a nine-time section champion. Defeating the Thundering Herd would make Tracy the first public school team from the southern half of the section to win a Division I baseball title since Merced in 2002.

“Let’s celebrate this, but we didn’t come here to win today. We still got work to do,” Alkire said of relishing the South title, but staying engaged for the section finals. “They know that, but a program like ours, that’s come from a long ways up to here, we stop and celebrate when we do new things (South title and 25 wins in a year).”

One thing is certain, Tracy plans to keep it simple and keep grinding.

Tracy takes a pregame huddle before the Div. I South final

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