Can the Eagles soar again?

Del Oro hungry after heartbreaking loss in section title game
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS — Almost 10 months later, the memory still haunts Bret Lachemann. The Del Oro head coach and his upstart Golden Eagles were one strike away from the team’s first Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship since 1991. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Ponderosa’s Casey Friedrich smacked an 0-2 fastball from Del Oro ace Cole Saunders for a two-run walk-off homer. “It’s taken a while to get over it,” Lachemann said. “The first day we were able to practice, it was good to get out here and start working towards it again this year. That memory has stuck with a lot of people for a long time. It’s all working towards this year now.” The stunning title defeat “was more of an inspiration for this year,” said returning first baseman Trevor Thomas, one of 10 seniors on the roster. “It was just over,” senior Ben Consulo said. “It was weird that it ended like that but this year we’re hoping to get back there, to redeem ourselves and hopefully have a different outcome.” After a 4-11 start last season, the Eagles won eight of their final 12 Sierra Foothill League games to reach the playoffs. “It takes some luck to get to that point,” said Lachemann, entering his third season at the helm. “We definitely have enough talent to be one of the three playoff teams from our league and in our league, if you make it to the playoffs, you’re battle-tested and you have a good chance to make a run at the section title.” Talent abounds, but so do the questions for Del Oro, 2-2 overall heading into its SFL opener today. While the outfield is experienced with returning all-league senior slugger Matt Leak in left, seniors Casey Cox in center and Consulo and Codey Gandy splitting time in right, the Eagles feature a young infield, an unproven pitching staff and uncertainty in the batting order. Del Oro didn’t graduate many, but their losses were big. The shortstop-second base tandem of Kenny Zuvela and Jake Bews provided stellar defense up the middle and high on-base percentages at the plate last season. Senior Mike Schnell, who played third last year, has been playing well at shortstop and junior Freddy Cargile, a football standout, has been sharing time at second base with senior Matt Donnely in his first varsity season. Cargile has also been discussed as a potential candidate to fill the void Bews left at the top of the lineup. “We don’t really have a prototypical leadoff hitter,” Lachemann said. Mason Magleby, a standout at quarterback for the football team last fall, has seen time at third base and in center field when he isn’t on the mound. Magleby and Consulo will shoulder the bulk of the pitching duties after the Eagles graduated ace Cole Saunders, “an all-metro pitcher who basically outpitched every other pitcher in our league,” Lachemann said. “We have a lot of pitchers but I don’t know if anybody can step up the way Cole did,” Consulo said. “Losing him was a big loss, but the junior pitchers who came up are doing well. They’re just getting the jitters out.” Among those juniors who will see significant mound time are Cooper Johnson and Cole Perez. “I think we’ve got some guys who can fill all those shoes, but we’ve got to figure out who those guys are going to be,” Lachemann said. “We’re just still trying to find the right combinations.” Another predicament for Lachemann is how to keep Magleby’s younger brother Max in the lineup. The sophomore — who has handled catching duties while Brian Rowe’s playoff run as point guard of the basketball team continued into the second week of March — leads the team with eight doubles. “We’ve got to find a way to keep him in the lineup,” Lachemann said. “He’s our leading hitter right now. He’s made it really hard for us.” Del Oro hosts Rocklin today to kick off an SFL schedule that figures to be as cutthroat as ever. While Granite Bay is a popular favorite, Consulo wouldn’t be surprised to see a bottom-dweller like Oakmont or Nevada Union make the postseason. “There are definitely some sleepers in the league this year,” Consulo said. “There are no easy games.”