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Folks who did fine in ’09

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: Teams and individuals turned in electrifying efforts — even if they didn’t always win it all
By: Journal Sports Staff
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Editor’s note: The following is a list of the top 10 Auburn Journal sports stories of 2009, as compiled by Sports Editor Todd Mordhorst.

1. Placer baseball wins Sac-Joaquin Section title
SACRAMENTO — Matt Ross knew he’d be taking the mound at some point on Memorial Day last spring. He didn’t know it would be with no outs in the second inning.
The Placer High senior was happy to take the ball from coach Larry Prewitt after starter Anthony Amara injured his elbow in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game at Sacramento City College. Ross came up with a signature performance to lead the Hillmen to a 6-1 victory over El Dorado and their first section banner since 1993.
“When he went down, I don’t think anyone panicked because me and Anthony are pretty much interchangeable,” Ross said.
Before he left the game, Amara ripped a single into center field in the top of the first inning to give the Hillmen (20-8) a lead they held onto throughout the day. Placer thoroughly outplayed the Cougars, with whom they shared the Pioneer Valley League title.
“I thought it was good enough just beating Oakdale (in the semifinals), but that’s nothing compared to this,” senior first baseman Spencer Zaputil said.
“I played four years just for this and finally, in my last game, here it is. We played great today. We had contributions from everybody.
“I’ve really got to give it to Matt (Ross). He pitched a great game.”


2. Placer football falls in section final for second straight season
STOCKTON — Trailing 14-0 less than four minutes into Friday night’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game, the Hillmen believed they could come back. And they did.
Down three touchdowns heading into the fourth quarter, the Placer High football team believed the game wasn’t over. And it wasn’t.
But after 48 minutes of non-stop action, Modesto Christian’s spectacular offense proved to be too much.
Placer lost a 61-40 shootout for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship at Lincoln High in Stockton.
The Hillmen (12-2) saw their season end with a loss in the section title game for a second straight season. The Crusaders (14-0) took advantage of five second-half turnovers by the Hillmen to win their first section crown in football.


3. Del Oro football team’s turnaround ends in section final
DAVIS — Jackson Cummings did all he could on both sides of the ball to prevent Del Oro High from mounting one more shocking postseason comeback.
Rocklin’s senior tailback ran for 235 yards and two first-half touchdowns, then intercepted a pass in the final minutes to ice a 21-14 win over the No. 8 Golden Eagles in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship before more than 8,000 at UC Davis.
The Thunder defensive line held in check Bryce Pratt, Cummings’ Sierra Foothill League counterpart.
Pratt, the catalyst behind a Del Oro offense that failed to find any rhythm, finished with a season-low 64 yards on 18 carries in a steady rain.
“You’ve got to give credit to their d-line,” Eagles head coach Casey Taylor said. “They really took us out of our run game. We just couldn’t get going offensively. Our defense played great and kept us in it, but their defense shut us down. We couldn’t get Bryce going and that was the key to the game.”
Del Oro, which pulled off stunning upsets at St. Mary’s and Folsom to make the finals ended the season 11-3.


4. Koerner tops best Western States field ever
Hal Koerner didn’t hear footsteps Saturday afternoon when he was chugging through Main Street in Foresthill. Whether it was the Allman Brothers blaring on his headphones or the crowd urging him on, something spurred Koerner to pick up the pace.
Leaving his challengers in the dust at the halfway point, Koerner ran to his second straight Western States Endurance run title Saturday night. After starting at Squaw Valley Saturday morning at 5 a.m., Koerner ran across the finish line at Auburn’s Placer High in 16 hours, 24 minutes, 55 seconds.
The triple-digit temperatures in the canyons punished many of the runners, but Koerner dealt with the adverse conditions beautifully after his push to take the lead and build a comfortable advantage.
The Ashland, Ore. resident looked fresh at the finish, as he did in 2007, when he led from start to finish and clocked in at 16:12:16. He had to wait two years to defend his crown after the 2008 race was canceled due to wildfires in the area. Stunningly absent from the field of frontrunners over the last half of the race was seven-time champion Scott Jurek. The 35-year-old physical therapist from Seattle won every Western States between 1999 and 2005.


5. Bear River softball wins third straight section title
STOCKTON – With the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship on the line, the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh inning and two strikes on her, Courtney Ceo needed a moment to breathe.
So she took one.
Moments later, the Bear River High shortstop gave her teammates a chance to breathe as well.
Ceo belted a 3-2 pitch over the right fielder’s head, allowing her younger sister Stephanie to score from second base and clinching the Bruins’ third straight section championship with a 2-1 victory over Oakdale at Arnaiz Stadium.


6. Del Oro boys make section basketball final
SACRAMENTO — Chase Tapley, Travon Abraham and Alonzo Brown shot the lights out at Arco Arena — literally.
The Sacramento High trio combined for 48 points on 60 percent shooting (21-for-35) to lead the top-seeded Dragons to a 71-44 win over No. 2 Del Oro in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship Friday night.
In another stellar playoff performance, Tapley padded his game-high 24 points as half of the overhead lights suddenly went dim with 1:39 left in the game.
“We just shot the lights out, baby,” Michael Henderson yelled to Tapley, the starting point guard from the Dragons’ Division III Northern California championship team who will play at San Diego State next year.
Del Oro guard Spencer Butterfield made his first three shots in the third quarter after a quiet first half to jumpstart a spirited run.
Point guard Brian Rowe’s layup late in the quarter capped the 19-10 spurt and reduced the deficit to single digits, 47-38, but that’s as close as the Eagles (22-8) would get.


7. Placer boys win section track title, girls second
The Placer High boys track and field team dominated all season and nothing changed Thursday in Modesto. The Hillmen were the best among 27 teams at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championships, winning their second section title in three years.
Junior Lucas Stancliff ran to victory in both the 800 meters and the 1600 to lead Placer’s charge and the Hillmen capped the win with a resounding win in the 4x400 relay. Asher Gotzmer, Louis Lazar Max Halvorsen and Nick Kenoyer combined to win the relay in 3 minutes, 26 seconds.
Halvorsen took second in the individual 400 in 51.9 while Clay Campbell ran a strong 1600 to place third.
On the field, senior Tony Mangino threw the discus 150 feet, 8 inches to take third place. Senior Derrick Hinch had a tough day in the pole vault, but battled to take third. Junior Brett Crider continued his late season charge with a third place showing in the triple jump, leaping 44-6.
“We talked about representing our community, our school and ourselves in that order,” Placer coach Rick Foley said. “We took a victory lap around the track afterwards. It was a special day, really exciting.”


8. Engsberg’s Tevis victory a special one
Tears accompanied Alison Bailey’s hoots and hollers Saturday night shortly after Sarah Engsberg rode across the finish line at the 54th Tevis Cup endurance ride.
Engsberg fulfilled a dream of Bailey’s late husband when she won the Tevis Cup title in her debut, edging out two experienced riders from the foothills.
Michael Bailey had ridden K-Zar Emmanuel to a national heavyweight championship in 2007 and passed away just a few weeks later. His wife Allison, from just outside of Charlotte, N.C., hooked up with Engsberg, from Atlanta, and set her up with K-Zar for Saturday’s 100-mile ride from Robie Point in Truckee to Auburn. It was a perfect fit.
“It was his dream to come and ride Tevis,” Allison said at the finish line.


9. Placer girls volleyball takes PVL crown
COLFAX — Julia Dorsey felt right at home even though she wore her Placer High volleyball uniform into a hostile Colfax gym.
The Placer senior called the Falcons’ court home in 2007. But two years later, she returned in green and gold, leading the Hillgals to a 25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 25-19 victory. Placer vaulted into a tie for the Pioneer Valley League lead with Colfax and avenged a loss to the Falcons at Earl Crabbe Gym earlier this month. The Hillgals went on to finish 11-1 in the PVL and claim the outright title.
“It feels incredible. I’m shaking right now,” said Dorsey, who dominated in the middle with 16 kills and six blocks. “The loss at home earlier this year hurt a lot. We just put our hearts out there on the court tonight and the whole team played great.”


10. Hancock races to record eighth AMA Speedway title
After the exciting A-main event wrapped up at Fast Friday’s at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, fans, friends and family came out on the track to congratulate the best speedway rides in America.
As Greg Hancock stood at the center of the awards podium and accepted his 2009 AMA/USA National Speedway Championship trophy history was made in Auburn.
Hancock captured his eighth USA National Speedway Championship. Hancock’s championship win Friday night gives him one more than Auburn’s Mike Bast who was tied with Hancock with seven national titles.
“It’s just crazy, to think I equaled his record in 2006 and to come here today and take it, it’s odd,” Hancock said. “I always thought Mike would be the man to go down in history to win all those titles.”