If it seemed that Turlock High was facing a must-win situation every time it took the field, it's because there was no margin for error as the Bulldogs pursued the Central California Conference crown.
Jordan Carlberg made sure the Bulldogs stayed in first all the way through the final match — last Thursday's 3-2 victory over rival Pitman — after the teams entered the conference finale with identical 9-1-1 records. Carlberg had a goal in the win, and four earlier in the week in a 6-1 win over Buhach Colony — giving her 33 for the season, good for No. 2 in the Stanislaus District. Carlberg, a contender for The Bee's Soccer Player of the Year, has eight hat tricks this season and Turlock is 13-0-1 when she scores. The 'Dogs (18-5-2) open the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs Friday, hosting MMC runner-up Enochs at 5 p.m. Turlock reached the section quarterfinals a year ago.
As defending Sac-Joaquin Section Masters champion — consecutive 66s in last year's Division I and Masters tournaments — it's difficult to be overwhelmed by Sam Smith's performance on the golf course.
The Turlock High junior discovered a way do grab everyone's attention at the Central California Conference tournament, though, overcoming stiff winds to shoot a 5-under 67 and win the individual title at Roddy Ranch in Antioch.
"Sam is constantly improving his game, it's priority," coach Ben Culala said. "But he has matured. He has always managed the course, but back then he was 5 feet 8 inches, and today he is 6-1 and has added power to his repertoire. But above all he plays the course, not the man, he always has.
"A new dimension is the competition with his brother Paul (a freshman and the Bulldogs' No. 2 player), it adds some motivation to our matches."
At a time when many elite athletes are specializing in one or perhaps two sports, Kendra Curtis is doing her best to carry on the tradition of the three-sport athlete by playing volleyball, basketball and softball.
She was impressive last week, as she fired back-to-back shutouts over Turlock Christian and Delhi — striking out 16 and allowing just four hits — to keep the Wildcats in the playoff race.
"To me, each sport is different and being able to play all three kept me on my toes," said Curtis, an all-Southern League performer in all three sports. "l never feel like I'm getting bored of one."
Curtis said her "dropout" pitch was key to her recent performances, as batters were lunging at the pitch as it approached the plate — swinging over the ball as it began to drop in the final few feet before the plate.
"My coach likes me to throw the drop and come back with the changeup to keep them guessing," she said.
Turlock Christian baseball
With Turlock Christian High's playoff hopes on the line last week, Eli Davis did his best to make sure the Eagles had something to play for this final week of the regular season. He went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and three runs, hit a homer, and pitched 2º innings of hitless relief to lift TC to a 10-8 upset of Denair in the Southern League.
Earlier in the week, Davis was 2 for 3 with two runs and two stolen bases, and threw an inning of hitless relief — striking out all three batters he faced — to beat Waterford 12-5.
Davis, an all-Stanislaus District football player who led the Eagles to their first-ever 10-0 regular-season in the fall, has reached base in all 21 games he has played. In addition to his .531 batting average, he's drawn 20 walks and struck out five times in 91 plate appearances.
He is also second in the district with 26 stolen bases, having been caught just once in his senior season.