Hindsight may be 20-20, but when Gregori High baseball coach Jim Davis looks back on the first seven weeks of the season, he can’t believe his eyes.
The Jaguars have been remarkably consistent ... or is it consistently remarkable?
In 20 games, Gregori has earned 20 wins, emerging as one of the teams to beat in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I tournament. They proved as much at the Mark Dickens Invitational earlier this week. The tournament, played at Oakdale and Escalon high schools, gathered together the very best teams in the Stanislaus District, regardless of enrollment size.
At 20-0, the Gregori High baseball team is the only unbeaten team in the Sac-Joaquin Section. There are 168 baseball teams in the section, according to MaxPreps.
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Though the tournament was interrupted by rain, Gregori was crowned the champion; the Jaguars were the only team in an eight-team field to go 3-0. Led by Nick Urrutia, Matt Dallas and Colton MacCaughtry – to name only a few – the Jaguars beat Tokay, Escalon, and Central Catholic.
Escalon and Central Catholic were played as a doubleheader on Wednesday at Escalon High.
“It tells me that I’ve got a good group,” said Davis, now in his 25th season as a high school baseball coach. “It tells me I’ve got kids that want something bigger than just a playoff berth. I think that the way we played was indicative of the teams we played.”
MacCaughtry and Jimmy McClenaghan sparked the extra-inning victory over the Trans-Valley League-leading Cougars, setting the table with singles. MacCaughtry scored on a bases-loaded walk to Branden Pasion and McClenaghan trotted home on a single by Julian Favela.
The Jaguars led 5-3 with two outs in the seventh inning when Escalon summoned a rally. The Cougars tied the game with two walks, a double steal and an infield single by Parker Cosby.
“We held on to win the game,” Davis said. “Escalon gave us all we could handle. I couldn’t care less if they’re small school. They did a good job. What I liked is that we responded. Our kids met a challenge and they met it head on.”
Later, Dallas shut out the Raiders, allowing just one hit. He struck out nine. In the doubleheader, Dallas (5 of 7) and MacCaughtry (5 of 7, two triples) were a combined 10 of 14.
Davis understands that, individually, he’s blessed with a roster brimming with good baseball players, beginning with Dallas, the reigning Modesto Metro Conference MVP.
Collectively, though, they’ve become a great team.
You want to compete and you want your kids to play well, but when you turn around and look at the schedule and realize you’re 20-0, that, to me, was unexpected. It’s a pleasant surprise, and we’ll take it.
Jim Davis, Gregori High baseball coach
“Matt Dallas was 5 of 7 and throws a complete-game one-hitter. Brandon Green stepped up big this week. So did Jimmy McClenaghan. Our No. 9 hitter, Nick Urrutia, hits a home run in the seventh inning against Tokay. We’ve had so many contributing factors,” Davis said. “We don’t have just one guy carrying us.
“As good as Dallas has played all season, he’s not by himself. We have a lot of kids contributing and doing a great job. It’s the consummate team effort.”
The accolades continue to roll in for the only unbeaten team in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
On Thursday, eight took part in Senior Baseball Signing Ceremony after school. They were joined on campus by their family and friends.
While they hunt a league and section title, Thursday’s milestone has greater significance. Seven players have committed to two- and four-year colleges, the most of any program in the Stanislaus District.
Pitcher Wade Brenneke is headed to Graceland University (Iowa), while Dallas and Green join opposing teams in the California Collegiate Athletic Association’s North Division. Dallas has signed with Stanislaus State; Green will suit up for Sonoma State.
Leadoff hitter Tyler Vandemark will join former Gregori standout Tyler Janitz at Willamette University (Ore.) and shortstop Zach McCoy will attend University of Dubuque (Iowa).
Austin Turley will play for Modesto Junior College coach Zeb Brayton and pitcher A.J. MacCaughtry has committed to The Master’s University in Santa Clarita.
An eighth player, outfielder Jimmy McClenaghan, is weighing multiple opportunities.
Gregori will jump back into Modesto Metro Conference play on Monday at Johansen, the start of a three-game series.
After that, the season finishes with a flurry: a three-game set with Enochs, which will be playing for a playoff berth; and a non-league tilt with Bear Creek. The Bruins are coached by former St. Mary’s mastermind Peter Pijl.
Gregori’s bid for a perfect regular season will be tested at the finish. The Jaguars have a three-game set with Enochs, which will be playing for a playoff berth, and a non-league tilt with Bear Creek, the San Joaquin Athletic Association leader.
Davis can’t fathom a perfect season.
He can’t believe the Jaguars, as talented and tight as they are, have come this far without a setback.
“It’s hard to gauge. You want to compete and you want your kids to play well, but when you turn around and look at the schedule and realize you’re 20-0, that, to me, was unexpected.
“It’s a pleasant surprise, and we’ll take it.”
Seven Gregori High baseball players have committed to two- and four-year colleges, including:
Wade Brenneke, Graceland University (Iowa)
A.J. MacCaughtry, The Master’s University (Santa Clarita)
Matt Dallas, Stanislaus State
Brandon Green, Sonoma State,
Tyler Vandemark, Willamette University (Ore.)
Zach McCoy, University of Dubuque (Iowa)
Austin Turley, Modesto Junior College
Note: An eighth player, Jimmy McClenaghan, is weighing multiple opportunities.