Gridley senior Ty Cota sure picked a heck of a time to hit his first career home run.
With the bases empty in the bottom of the third inning in Saturday afternoon’s CIF Northern Section Division 3 championship game at Butte College and the No. 1 Bulldogs clinging to a slim 2-0 lead over No. 2 Lassen, Cota turned on a low inside pitch and tomahawked it over the left-field wall to spark a four-run uprising that propelled Gridley to a 7-0 win over the Grizzlies.
It’s the first baseball section title in the school’s history – and it comes in the 18th year for head coach Dan Crabtree.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Crabtree said. “We had a very special group this year, and they stayed focused and got it done.”
Despite eight days off since winning last Friday night’s semifinal doubleheader over Corning, the Bulldogs were able to have a couple of sharp practices in the week and kept both their physical and mental focus, Crabtree added.
Cota said he was happy his homer helped the Bulldogs begin to put their stamp on the game.
“We got them out 1-2-3 in the top of the first, and then we scored in the bottom of the first,” Cota said. “That gave us some confidence.”
The Bulldogs were also getting great pitching from junior ace Lance Santerre, who threw a complete-game shutout with just 80 pitches. He gave up just one hit on the afternoon, striking out seven.
Cota paced a 10-hit Gridley attack, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored and the aforementioned homer – the first of the season for the Bulldogs in 31 games.
For Gridley senior Brian Wilkerson, it was a great way to cap off a memorable high school sports career. Wilkerson, also a basketball standout for Gridley, will be headed to Menlo College to play basketball this fall.
“It’s just starting to sink in,” Wilkerson said with a smile as the Bulldogs prepared together their gear and exit the dugout to make way for Pleasant Valley and the Division 2 championship game.
The Bulldogs lose nine seniors from this team. Many of them have played together since little league days, where they won several championships as well.
Wilkerson said he and Cota were on a team that won a championship when they were nine years old.
Cota said the memories both on and off the field with his teammates will stay with him.
“We had a great group of guys,” Cota said. “This was a special run.”
After about a week off, a short summer season kicks off for the Bulldog underclassmen. Consisting mainly of weekend tournaments, the summer slate will run through late July.