If 2009 Oakdale High graduate Justin Jones takes the mound this weekend for the University of California, Berkeley at the 2011 NCAA Division Baseball Championships, he could have a rowdy local cheering section all his own.
The 12-and-under NorCal Valley baseball team (a division of CenCal) signed up for a tournament the same weekend near the same Omaha, Nebraska location as the NCAA Championships (dubbed the College World Series).
NorCal coach Nate Gregory, who also coached Jones at Oakdale High, said the 12-and-under tournament comes with 20 tickets to see a College World Series game. He said he expects that game to be one featuring Cal and possibly their standout sophomore pitcher, Jones.
The OHS grad has yet to allow an earned run in four postseason appearances this season, and went six innings with three strikeouts in a 7-0 shutout of Dallas Baptist to start the first of two NCAA Santa Clara Super Regional championship games on June 11 at Stephen Schott Stadium in Santa Clara.
Cal also won the second game, propelling the team to the college world series for the first time since 1992.
“It is unreal to watch him take off and have so much success at a high level,” Gregory said on Monday. “He is probably one of the best people I know, just judging his character and maturity level.”
Gregory’s son, Josh Snow, will join Oakdale players Blake Whiting, Wesley Allen, Devin Odom, and Wyatt Hansen on the trip to Omaha. The rest of the NorCal team is comprised of players from surrounding areas like Riverbank’s Ben Solario and a handful of others from Modesto and Turlock.
“I would like for us to hang out with Cal at some point, if it’s not too big a distraction,” Gregory said. “For these kids to meet the team, Jones, and tie the trip to Oakdale would be an incredible experience.”
The NorCal team almost had two Oakdale grads to cheer for, but 2010 Mustang grad and UCLA pitcher Nick Vander Tuig saw his World Series chances slip away after consecutive hits from UC Irvine spoiled his save attempt in a 4-3 loss during the NCAA Los Angeles Regional championships. Vander Tuig finished his freshman campaign as the team closer (nine saves) and went 3-4 in games in which he got a decision. UCLA won the Pac-10 and went 35-24.