It all clicked – for Matt Dallas and the Gregori High baseball team.
The two-time Modesto Metro Conference MVP elevated his game, blossoming into one of the best players in the Sac-Joaquin Section. He ranked among the section’s best hitters, pitchers and catchers, a total package in a region teeming with talent.
The Jaguars, a promising young program, followed his rise.
Gregori won its first 26 games of the season, claimed MMC and Mark Dickens Memorial Invitational titles, and climbed to No. 9 in the Cal-Hi Sports state poll. The Jaguars advanced to the Division I South semifinal round for the first time in school history, losing a nail-biter to eventual south champion Tracy.
All the while, Dallas was a force – and The Bee’s runaway choice as All-District Baseball Player of the Year.
That should shock no one, except for maybe Dallas, whose prowess is matched by his humility and selfless spirit. Bound for Stanislaus State in the fall, he cared only about winning baseball games with his friends, and like the rest of his tools, he was exceptional at that, too.
“It was fun,” Dallas said. “I remember thinking back to the first day of summer ball, with all the guys together, I knew we had something special going into the season. Still, I didn’t really know what was in store. Throughout the year, it got more and more special.”
Gregori traveled uncharted waters, dethroning Beyer and clinching its first outright MMC title in school history. The Jaguars weren’t beaten until the final day of the regular season, suffering a stunning 10-0 loss to San Joaquin Athletic Association champion Bear Creek.
By then, the Jags were 26-0 and the last unbeaten team in the section.
“With the group that we had, I knew it would take a really, really good team to beat us,” Dallas said. “Until we saw one of those teams, all we had to do was play our game and we knew would win.”
The Jaguars rebounded in the postseason, defeating Lodi and St. Mary’s to move within one game of the Division I South final.
The 4-1 win over the Rams was telling, said Dallas, who was 2 for 2 with two doubles in that quarterfinal matchup. With four Division I titles, St. Mary’s sets the curve for large schools in the southern half of the section. That triumph echoed throughout the section, confirming Gregori’s place on the totem pole.
“There was a lot of talk that the MMC wasn’t tough … and it wasn’t,” Dallas said. “There was a lot of talk that we were a decent team in a bad league. To have the chance to go out of our league and face a marquee team and get the ‘W,’ that was a really, really good feeling.”
Dallas’ versatility made him invaluable to coach Davis and the Jaguars.
As a junior, he played all over the field, platooning in the outfield, second base and pitcher. As a senior, he settled into the squat.
Dallas handled a starting rotation that won 18 of its 21 starts, not only learning what pitches to call but what strings to pull. Newcomer Julian Favela was 9-0 and the MMC’s Pitcher of the Year, while senior A.J. MacCaughtry was 9-3.
He thanked coach Davis for giving him a voice on the diamond.
“We had a pretty good relationship,” said Dallas, who picked off 15 of the 19 runners who attempted to steal. “In some situations, if he said something that I didn’t agree with, he didn’t have a problem with me stepping in. He knew it was a different perspective being on the field than in the dugout.”
His brilliance wasn’t confined to the mask and chest protector.
Dallas was 8-0 with a team-high four shutouts and one no-hitter. He also hit .510 with 35 runs, 29 RBI, 11 doubles and five triples. Dallas was second in the section with 50 total hits.
He, like his team, was a tough out.
“It clicked at some point in beginning of the year,” Dallas said. “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t seeing the ball well.”
All-District spring glance
Tuesday: Boys golf
Wednesday: Boys tennis
Friday,: Track and field