Been there, done that, still at it

One perfect inning of relief Wednesday night did nothing more than lower Drew Pomeranz’s ERA to 7.71. And his appearance for the Dodgers’ Triple A affiliate in Oklahoma City came with the Sacramento River Cats batting in the eighth inning and leading 4-1 at Sutter Health Park. Pomeranz should have been handed a mop on his way to the mound.

Oklahoma City did not score after Drew Avans led off with a homer, so there was little chance of a comeback. And there was also little interest in a rally because several fans, including those wearing Dodgers shirts and caps, were already on their way home. The attendance was announced as 4,293, but you could have bet a foul ball would hit an empty seat and won.

Drew Pomeranz and his son Tate

Pomeranz was a National League All-Star with the San Diego Padres in 1916. The left-hander earned a World Series ring in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox. And here he was Wednesday night, closing out a loss with his seventh inning of work in seven appearances this season. That is a far cry from his total of 62 starts and 340.1 innings in 2016-17.

At least his wife Carolyn, 3-year-old son Tate and in-laws were on hand until the end because they were obligated to stay. Carolyn took advantage of her husband’s six-day stay in Sacramento to visit her parents in Orinda and bring them to the game Wednesday. Tate enjoyed a cup of ice cream and was entertained by Dinger, the River Cats mascot.

The 35-year-old Pomeranz has not pitched in the major leagues since 2021 when he appeared in 27 games with the Padres. He has pitched for seven major-league teams, including the A’s and Giants, but not the one that drafted him. The Indians selected Pomeranz with the fifth overall pick in 2010 and then traded him to the Rockies in August 2011.

Tate Pomeranz pays more attention to his cup of ice cream than to the game.

His major-league debut came a month later and he earned the victory by allowing two hits in five scoreless innings as the Rockies beat the Reds 4-1. Pomeranz was traded in December 2013 to the A’s and optioned in July 2014 to Sacramento when the team was the A’s Triple A affiliate. The A’s then traded Pomeranz to the Padres five months later.

That proved fortuitous for Pomeranz. Not only was he voted to the NL All-Star team in 2016, but he also pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game in front of a partisan Padres crowd at Petco Park. The All-Star excitement did not last long, however. When the season resumed after the three-day break, Pomeranz had to pack his bags after being shipped to the Red Sox.

Pormeranz appeared in 26 games, including 11 starts, in 2018 when the Red Sox won their ninth world championship. This is his 14th professional season and could turn out to be his third in a row without any major-league action. None of that seemed to matter Wednesday as Pomeranz held his son as Tate stood on a railing along the right-field foul line.

The thought of Tate watching his father pitch in the majors will drive Pomeranz even though he is nearly out of gas after appearing in 369 games, making 204 starts and pitching 1,191.2 innings.

Majors so close, but yet so far

Oklahoma City left fielder Miguel Vargas is knocked off his feet when he is hit by a pitch on his left arm in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Sacramento at Sutter Health Park.

Jorge Soler of the Giants and Jason Heyward of the Dodgers are spending a few days in the minors as they shake off the rust from being sidelined with injuries.

Drew Avans is greeted in the dugout after leading off with a homer for Oklahoma City. Catcher Chris Okey falls with the ball in his glove after catching a foul popup.

Oklahoma City’s Drew Pomeranz visits with his 3-year-old son Tate. A youngster joins Sacramento shortstop Donovan Walton on the field for the national anthem.

Tickets to state meet at stake

Reality checks will be distributed Friday at the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet in Davis. Many athletes who had their way in divisional meets last week will need every bit of luck they can get just to survive the trials. Those who do not might be even luckier because they will not have to be in the finals Saturday with no chance of getting anything more than a pat on the back from a sympathetic coach.

Many of the section qualifiers from Vacaville, Vanden, Will C. Wood and Dixon high schools fall into that category. Vacaville’s Khloe DeLaTorre is the only one to rank first in the section in any event according to Athletic.net. The sophomore has the top time in the 800-meter run at 2:14:43, which she set April 20 in placing second to Carondelet’s Jayla Addision (2:14.36) at the Sacramento Meet of Champions. Granite Bay’s Kylie Nasca was third in 2:16.21. No other girl eclipsed 2:17 that day.

Khloe DeLaTorre and Makayla Galvan on train Monday in preparation for the Masters meet.

Nasca is second to DeLaTorre in the section and is one of the three seniors to crack 2:17 this season. The only other runner to do so is sophomore Veronica White of Christian Brothers. At least two of those five girls will not make it to the state meet May 24-25 at Buchanan High in Clovis because only the top three finishers will go. DeLaTorre knows how it feels to be left out after finishing fourth last year.

The 15-year-old DeLaTorre will do whatever it takes Saturday to earn a ticket. So will other athletes from Vacaville, Vanden and Dixon who rank in the top five in their respective events. Dixon junior Nathan Bloom and sophomore Madison Olds are ranked fifth in the boys shot put and girls discus, respectively. Sophomore Naiaja Sizemore of Vanden is ranked second in the 100 and fourth in the 200.

DeLaTorre was also weighing a heavy Masters load. In addition to the 800, she made it in the 1,600 and helped the Bulldogs qualify in the 4×400 and 4×800 relays. At one least event had to go, so she dropped the 1,600. It has yet to be determined if one relay event will be cut. The same four girls – DeLaTorre, Jensis Rafferty, Reagan Fisher and Alicia Rawdon – compete in each relay, so dropping one will not leave anyone out. DeLaTorre could never do that to a teammate.

Opponents are fair game. DeLaTorre has a specific strategy for each of those who might give her a run for money. She knew exactly what to expect in the 1,600 final at the Division III meet. Brenna Mannion of Vista del Lago, the only Division III girl to break 5 minutes this season, tucked in behind DeLaTorre with Placer’s Anna Seares running out front.

As soon as Mannion made a move on DeLaTorre by pulling even on the third lap, DeLaTorre figured it was time to make a “big move.” She immediately pulled away from Mannion and zipped past Seares to win comfortably in 5:09.05. Mannion was second in 5:12.95, followed by Seares and Vacaville sophomore Makayla Galvan.

Sour ending to Solano season

Max Debiec was relatively harmless when the bases were empty or there was just one runner aboard against Solano Community College in the Northern California Regional playoffs. The Folsom Lake sophomore was dangerous, however, when he stepped to the plate with two teammates on base. Solano head coach Scott Stover learned in two games how lethal the 6-foot-7 Debiec can be in those situations.

Debiec made each of his three hits count as Folsom Lake knocked out Solano by winning 11-2 on Thursday and 9-2 on Friday. Two of Debiec’s hits came with two on base. Debiec belted a two-run double in the fifth inning Thursday to break a 2-2 tie and followed Friday with a two-run triple in the fifth to give Folsom Lake a 3-0 lead.

Folsom Lake’s Max Debiec validated his .467 batting average with a two-run double Thursday and a two-run triple Friday against Solano.

Three runs would have been enough to win either game. Solano was by no means the only team to run into trouble against Debiec, who ranks second in the state with a .467 batting average. He has 71 RBI and could very well be the state leader depending on what Rocco Borreli of Los Medanos (69 RBI) does in a best-of-three series against CaƱada.

Solano sophomore Conner Ross ranks third in batting average at .432 and is tied for seventh in RBI with 57. He was 2-for-4 on Friday and his leadoff homer in the sixth inning trimmed Folsom Lake’s lead to 3-2. The Napa High graduate will leave Solano after being honored as the Player of the Year in the Bay Valley Conference and will continue his college career at California Baptist.

Stover will enter the offseason with the task of replacing Ross, shortstop Kevin Parker, center fielder Miles Meadows and right fielder Joseph Guttmann from a team that finished second in the BVC at 16-5 and 26-15 overall. That would be his top four players in RBI and runs scored this season. Parker (.340), Guttmann (.333) and Meadows (.312) joined Ross among the team’s top six hitters. Two freshmen, left fielder Rolando Ramos (.350) and catcher JJ Dain (.346), followed Ross.

Parker relieved Mateo Santos in the seventh inning Friday after Tyler Allen led off with a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Will C. Wood graduate Kobe Rolling. Vanden graduate Darryl Dilworth singled to drive in Allen and Parker then lost his control, walking the next two batters to load the bases. Parker struck out Nate Vargas and was one out away from escaping the seventh with no damage when he balked with Michael Ryan at the plate.

That allowed Dilworth to score and restore Folsom Lake’s three-run lead. Dilworth had an RBI double in the eighth and came home on a single by Debiec as Folsom Lake scored four runs to put the game away. Parker allowed five earned runs in 1.2 innings after yielding just nine in his other 16 relief appearances. Utah Valley will probably not need Parker to pitch when he joins the Wolverines in the fall.

Playoffs are more like reunion

Mateo Santos came within one out of a no-hitter in Solano’s 19-0 victory over Napa Valley last Thursday and earned his team-high seventh win this season.
Sophomore Connor Ross ranks third in the state with a .434 batting average.

UC Davis coach digs into draft

Caleb Williams would not be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft if Tim Plough had a say with the Chicago Bears. The UC Davis head coach has nothing against the former USC quarterback and 2022 Heisman Trophy winner other than he does not believe Williams is the best player available at the most important position in football.

Plough would select Washington’s Michael Penix Jr., who will likely have to wait until the second round to hear his name called. Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft has LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Maye following Williams. Kiper also has Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Oregon’s Bo Nix going ahead of Penix.

Tim Plough returned to UC Davis to become head coach after Dan Hawkins resigned.

Who is Plough to think he knows better than Kiper? Plough is widely regarded for his creative offensive mind. He was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at UC Davis before leaving in 2021 to take the same job at Boise State. He was fired four games into the 2022 season and joined Justin Wilcox’s staff at Cal as the tight ends coach in 2023.

Wilcox offered to make Plough the offensive coordinator after Jack Spavital left to take the same job at Baylor. Despite being flattered, Plough opted to return to UC Davis and become head coach after Dan Hawkins called it a career. The Aggies could not offer as much money as Cal, but job security is invaluable. Plough will no longer have to worry about moving his family every year or two.

“I was happy at Cal, but it was too great of a risk (to stay there). I couldn’t do that to my wife and (three) kids,” said Plough, who was a quarterback with the Aggies for four years and started as a senior in 2007. “(UC Davis) is where I really wanted to be. It made more sense for us as a family. This is a dream.”

Caleb Williams

His one season at Cal alllowed Plough to see Williams, Nix and Penix in action. Williams had the best performance of the three against the Bears, throwing for 368 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for two scores in the Trojans’ 50-49 victory. Nix and Penix each had four touchdown passes against Cal.

Penix would be Plough’s pick because of his poise in the pocket. “The NFL game plays from the pocket and he’s the most prepared,” Plough said. “He can move in a confined space and still be accurate. He’s the most accurate thrower and the best thrower of the group.”

Plough questions if Williams can function within the parameters of a playbook instead of continually trying to improvise. “It’s his athleticism,” Plough said. “He has the ability to make plays off schedule and make something out of nothing.. He played in Lincoln Riley’s offense (at USC), so he’s had the tutelage from one of the best offensive minds in the country.”

Nix completed 77.4 percent of his passes with just three interceptions last season, but Plough is not convinced Nix can thread the ball to receivers in tight coverage. Plough added that Nix is a proven leader who could be capable of stepping into an NFL huddle as a rookie and taking charge of an offense.

Finding a quarterback is the least of Plough’s concerns in his return to UC Davis. He recruited Miles Hastings to play for the Aggies in 2019 and will have the senior behind center in the fall. Plough will be calling plays after Mike Cody did so in 2023. Cody was promoted from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator after Cody Hawkins left his father’s staff to become head coach at Idaho State.

Hastings went from throwing for 3,048 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2022, when he was a first-team selection in the All-Big Sky Conference voting, to passing for 2,380 yards and 10 touchdowns with a caeer-high 10 interceptions last season.

SCC comes out swinging in win

Miles Meadows (above) was tagged out on a steal attempt Thursday afternoon, but little else went wrong for Solano Community College in a 13-3 victory over Marin. The Falcons evened the three-game series against the Mariners with the rubber match on Friday in Kentfield.

Solano is 13-4 in the Bay Valley Conference and trails Marin by one game for second place. Los Medanos sits atop the conference at 14-2 with both losses coming against Solano. The Falcons will finish the regular season next week with a three-game series against Napa Valley. Solano will be the home team Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. and Friday at 1 p.m.

The Falcons scored five runs in the third inning and six in the fifth Thursday to make life much easier for Mateo Santos, who allowed two runs on eight hits and struck out eight in seven innings. The Bethel High product improved his record to 6-2 and moved into a tie with Peyton Czekalewski for the team lead in victories.

Solano designated hitter Connor Ross had three hits, including a two-run homer, The Napa High product ranks second in the BVC and fifth in the state with a .434 batting average. He also leads the Falcons in RBI with 47 and runs scored with 42.

Gregory Ryan

Three’s company at Sac State

Carson Camp started the 2023 season at quarterback for Sacramento State and finished it Saturday in a stadium he once called home. The junior transfer from South Dakota returned to Grand Forks for a second-round FCS playoff game and did all he could to spark the Hornets, but his effort was not enough in a 34-24 loss to his former team.

Camp made just his fourth appearance of the season after Kaiden Bennett was injured and exited in the second quarter. Turnabout must be fair play because Bennett replaced Camp in the second quarter of the Aug. 31 opener at Nicholls State. Camp was pulled after struggling in his debut with the Hornets and Bennett came to the rescue.

Carson Camp made a case to start in 2024 with a solid relief effort in Sacramento State’s loss to South Dakota on Saturday.

Bennett made a case to become the starter by throwing for two touchdowns and running for a third in a 38-24 victory. His first start came a week later in a 34-6 win over Texas A&M-Commerce and Bennett again delivered, throwing for 176 yards and rushing for 101. His two touchdown runs propelled the Hornets to a 24-0 lead at halftime.

His second start was even better. Bennett threw for 279 yards and ran for 100 in a 30-23 victory at Stanford. His footwork went beyond his 13 carries. Bennett scrambled out of a sack and flipped a pass to running back Marcus Fulcher, who did the rest for a 49-yard touchdown with 1:32 to play.

The spotlight shifted to Carson Conklin, however, after the true freshman relieved Bennett in a 51-16 victory at Idaho State on Oct. 28. Conklin threw for 273 yards and three touchdowns to put himself in line for more playing time. Conklin made his first start Nov. 11 in a 41-30 win over Cal Poly and rewarded the coaches for putting their faith in him.

Some folks will say the Hornets were not risking that much by going with Conklin because the Mustangs were 1-5 in the Big Sky Conference. The game was much closer than expected, so Conklin made the difference by passing for 313 yards and three touchdowns.

Conklin did not come close to those numbers against UC Davis in the Causeway Classic on Nov. 18. He got the hook at halftime with the Aggies leading 17-0 after going 13-of-25 for 137 yards. Bennett completed 19 of 28 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns in the second half as the Hornets salvaged a smidgen of pride.

Bennett was incredible in a 42-35 win at North Dakota in the first round of the playoffs, accounting for three touchdowns with 333 yards of total offense. His injury Saturday might have had a silver lining because the offense was in need of a jump-start. The first four possessions ended in two punts, an interception and a fumble that South Dakota returned for a touchdown to take a 17-0 lead.

Camp provided it on the ensuing possession by throwing for 36 yards and running for 24 as the Hornets drove 75 yards to score their first touchdown with 9:31 to play in the second quarter. His effort did not rescue the Hornets, but it makes for quite a quarterback battle when the Hornets reconvene to prepare for the 2024 season.

The Hornets essentially had two starting quarterbacks the past two seasons with Jake Dunniway and Asher O’Hara. Now let’s see if they can juggle three.

Hornets try to stretch season

Sacramento State has not reached the end of the road, but the Hornets are facing a familiar pothole. Saturday’s 42-35 victory at North Dakota earned the Hornets a second game in the FCS playoffs for the third time since 2019, but they have yet to play a third game.

The Hornets will return to the Midwest for that second game this week and face third-seeded South Dakota in Vermillion. The Coyotes are 9-2 and rallied at home to beat North Dakota 14-10 on Nov. 11. Sacramento State and South Dakota will meet for the first time.

This season has not been like the past two for the Hornets. They brought an eight-game winning streak in the 2021 playoffs to earn a first-round bye and then lost to South Dakota State. They were 12-0 last year after a first-round win over Richmond and then lost 66-63 to Incarnate Word. The Hornets and Cardinals combined for 57 points in the fourth quarter.

Kaiden Bennett threw for 207 yards and rushed for 126 on Saturday to propel the Hornets to a 42-35 victory at North Dakota.

Sacramento State was lucky just to make the 24-team playoffs this season, much less receive a bye or a home game, after going 7-4 in the regular season and losing 31-21 to UC Davis in the Causeway Classic. That left the Hornets with a 1,743-mile trip to Grand Forks.

Finding their way to the Alterus Center was far easier than trying to figure out who would start at quarterback against the Fighting Hawks. Freshman Carson Conklin started the previous two games, but he was pulled at halftime against UC Davis with a 17-0 deficit.

Junior Kaiden Bennett threw three touchdown passes in the second half, the third making it 24-14 with 5:45 to play. The Hornets gambled on their next possession by going for it on fourth-and-12 at their 18-yard line, but Bennett’s pass intended for wide receiver Carlos Hill fell incomplete.

Lan Larison scored on a 12-yard run with 3:30 remaining for his fourth touchdown of the day to put the game away. The Aggies snapped a three-game losing streak against the Hornets.

Bennett’s start Saturday was his ninth of the season and he made the most of it. The Folsom High School graduate passed for 207 yards, ran for 126 and accounted for three touchdowns. The third was a 4-yard scamper for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:45 to go.

Tight end Marshel Martin IV wrapped his arms around Bennett at the 2-yard line and pulled him into the end zone. Bennett accounted for 63 of 75 yards during the seven-play drive by completing all of his three passes for 40 yards and gaining 23 on three carries.

Bennett has run for 100 or more yards in three games this season. He surpassed senior Marcus Fulcher on Saturday for the team lead in rushing yards with 578. Fulcher has 527.

Days numbered for ex-Viking

This is not how Armon Bailey envisioned his football career at Sacramento State coming to an end. The 2018 Vanden High School graduate expected the Hornets to beat UC Davis in the Causeway Classic, win the Big Sky Conference and host an FCS playoff game.

Bailey had every reason to believe the Hornets could achieve all three. Sacramento State beat UC Davis and won or shared the Big Sky championship in each of the past three seasons. And the Hornets began each of their three playoff appearances with a home game.

UC Davis running back Lan Larison could not get away from Sacramento State’s Armon Bailey on this play in the Causeway Classic.

Two out of three would have been fine with Bailey. One out of three would have been acceptable – especially if that one was another victory over the Aggies. Going 0-3 left the linebacker to wonder how a season with so much promise fell short of his expectations.

At least the Hornets are in the playoffs. Sacramento will face North Dakota in Grand Forks on Saturday. The Hornets are 2-4 against the Fighting Hawks, but Sacramento State won in each of its past two visits, most recently in 2017. Bailey had seven tackles when the Hornets lost 41-15 at home to North Dakota in 2018.

UC Davis was left out of the playoffs despite a 31-21 win over Sacramento State last week to finish 5-3 in the Big Sky. The Hornets were 4-4 and would have also been snubbed if not for their 30-23 win against their former coach, Troy Taylor, at Stanford on Sept. 16.

Sacramento State also received credit for three of its four Big Sky losses coming against ranked FCS teams – Montana, Idaho and Montana State. UC Davis did not play Montana State or Idaho. The Aggies lost to Montana, Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington.

Armon Bailey leads the Hornets in tackles with 82 as a senior.

Falling to 0-11 against Eastern Washington cost UC Davis after the Eagles finished 3-5. The Aggies would not have merited any consideration if they had lost to Sacramento State. Bailey did all he could to prevent that by leading the Hornets in tackles with nine.

“For me personally, it really sucked. I didn’t want to go out on that kind of note,” said Bailey, who had eight or more tackles in seven games this season. Bailey leads the Hornets in tackles for the second consecutive year with 82. He had 88 as a junior in 2022.

Marte Mapu finished second to Bailey in tackles last season with 76. Mapu was named the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and the New England Patriots selected him in the third round of the 2023 NFL draft. He now starts at linebacker for the Patriots.

The 23-year-old Bailey believes Mapu has paved a path for other Hornets to have an opportunity to play in the NFL. One such player for the 2024 draft is Bailey, who is a two-time All-Big Sky selection after missing a total of 13 games in 2019 and 2021 with injuries.

As a “humble kid,” Bailey will not come out and say he believes he deserves a shot. As a “resilient guy,” he would welcome the challenge of proving he can compete against the elite.

“I feel like it’s right around the corner,” said Bailey, who has earned a degree in criminal justice and is thinking of applying for law school. “Everything is starting to fall into place.”