Do you remember the 2008 Summerville Bears baseball season? Truth be told, it was a rather forgettable year. But Taylor Gold, then a freshman starting on the varsity, remembers it well. The Bears went 4-18.
“But I can tell you that season felt like we were 2-and-25,” says Gold.
In 2009, Taylor’s father, Larry Gold, took over as head coach and Summerville finished third in the Mother Lode League and played in a first-round playoff contest. The 2010 Bears didn’t qualify for postseason play.
“And this year (2011), during our practices in February, we didn’t seem like we had that great of a team,” said Josh Dunlap, who was named co-captain with Taylor Gold. “I was thinking we could, maybe, make the playoffs.”
“Before this season started,” said Coach Gold, “Josh Dunlap was slated to be our No. 3 pitcher — a reliever, an occasional starter.”
Summerville lost its first 2011 league game to host Calaveras, 11-1.
“We made eight errors in that game,” recalled Coach Gold. “Josh didn’t take the mound for us. We got back on that bus to go home and there was this collective thought that we were in for a real long season. We thought, ‘OK, we’re gonna be mediocre.’ ”
Two days later, Taylor Gold cracked a triple, Dunlap hit 3-for-3 including a double, and host Summerville defeated Calaveras, 9-4. Starting pitcher Dunlap hurled six innings and yielded just two earned runs.
“And all of a sudden,” said Coach Gold, “there was a new attitude on this ballclub. It seemed like all of our kids were saying, ‘Hey, we’re not gonna stand for losing.’ We had just pulled out a good win against Calaveras — a team that we knew was very good — and from that moment on, our kids just made up their minds they weren’t gonna lose anymore.”
And they didn’t. At least not for a very long time.
Summerville won 12 straight MLL contests and clinched its first league title since 1977.
From his shortstop position, Gold had taken charge of Summerville’s defense. He made enough dive-in-the-dirt spectacular plays to keep fans spellbound.
“But equally important,” said Dunlap, “was that we had sophomores playing second base and third base and Taylor took everyone under his wing and showed the younger kids how to approach the game. He took command of our whole defense.”
Gold also took command of the offense. He ended the 2011 season with a team-high .486 batting average and an eye-popping .608 on-base percentage.
And Dunlap became more than Summerville’s ace. Thanks to a mischievous, vile curveball that bamboozled batters, Dunlap became the entire league’s No. 1 hurler. He finished the MLL season with a 6-1 record, three saves and a 1.30 ERA. He also hit .347.
“Josh took on the role of being our No. 1 pitcher with a vengeance,” explained Coach Gold. “He decided he would be the guy. He was given the nickname ‘Bulldog,’ and that’s exactly what he was.
“After our last regular-season game (a road win over Linden), Josh gets on the bus and says, ‘The ball is coming to me.’ We knew we could rely on him.”
From that last regular-season win over Linden and through the next 10 days, Taylor Gold, Dunlap and their teammates took Summerville on a never-to-be-forgotten ride: Three straight playoff wins and a berth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship contest.
Gold was on base 12-of-13 times in the postseason. In Summerville’s three playoff victories, Dunlap earned two wins and saved the other.
And so for leading Summerville to its most successful baseball season in school history, The Union Democrat All-Area Co-MVPs are Josh Dunlap and Taylor Gold.
“It’s a sweet and pretty cool honor for Josh and myself,” said Gold. “It’s nice that we’re being rewarded for the unforgettable year that our team had.”
“Both Josh and Taylor are very well deserving of this award,” said Calaveras head coach Mike Koepp. “Josh was Summerville’s main pitcher, and Taylor held them together defensively — he was the engine that made it all work. They are definitely the right choice for MVPs. I couldn’t imagine it being one without the other. Both had years beyond what I could ever have expected of them.”
“Taylor and Josh were two kids who arrived at practice early and stayed late,” said Bears pitching coach Steve Farrell. “There is nobody more deserving of the All-Area MVP honors than those two.”
“These two are great choices for MVPs,” said Sonora head coach Scott Johnson. “I mean no disrespect, but nobody expected anything out of Summerville this year. But their kids — particularly Taylor and Josh — pulled that program up and then all of a sudden Summerville was a team that everyone was talking about.
“Then the season rolls on and Summerville gets to the section championship. That’s amazing! Summerville showed when you play team baseball and you care about each other as teammates, look what you can do. A section-title appearance is what every program wants, and so those are two excellent choices for the All-Area MVP award.”
Two other Bears with outstanding seasons were senior Jared English and sophomore Joey Brocchini. Both earned First-Team All-Area honors. English hit .473 and was magical with the glove over at first base. Brocchini had a team-high 22 RBIs and was 7-0 (3.41 ERA) on the mound.
Bret Harte and Calaveras each earned postseason berths.
Calaveras finished second in the MLL and has two First-Team All-Area honorees, seniors Garrett Bock and Chris Ussery. Bock was superb at catcher and also hit .371. Ussery batted .317 and was Koepp’s top relief man with a 2.74 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 15 innings pitched.
Bret Harte’s First-Team honorees are junior Josh Bailey and seniors Jacob Devalle and Austin Poletti. Bailey hit a team-high .411, Devalle .406 and Poletti was Bret Harte’s pitching ace with a 6-2 record and 1.74 ERA.
Tioga had an outstanding season, cruising to a Mountain Valley League title with an 8-1 record (10-5 overall) and postseason berth.
Sonora played a Herculean preseason, then went 8-6 in the formidable Valley Oak League, just barely missing out on a playoff spot.
Four Wildcats earned First-Team All-Area honors: senior Ryan Emerald and juniors Wyatt Johnson, Karson Canaday and Dylan Fernandes.
Emerald hit .347 in VOL play and his range at shortstop was ... well, let’s just call it the left side of the infield, parts of the right and about halfway to the fence anywhere in the outfield.
Canaday hit .359 in 2011, stole 22 bases on 24 attempts and was Sonora’s top pitcher. Johnson was stellar in center field and hit .300.
Besides being one of the top defensive catchers in the section, Fernandes terrorized opponents at the plate with a .468 batting average, .609 on-base percentage and 24 RBIs, all team-highs.
“There really were some great players all over our area,” said Dunlap. “So I do feel very honored to be Co-MVP.”
“He wasn’t afraid of anyone when he took the mound,” said Taylor Gold of Dunlap.
“Josh approached pitching with a perfect mentality this season,” said Koepp. “In high school baseball, if you have good stuff, like Josh did, and you don’t walk people, and you throw strikes, the hitters will get themselves out and you will win games. That was Josh.
“And with Taylor Gold, Summerville had a strong athlete who could anchor that defense — that was such a huge key to their success. Taylor is a strong, physical kid who was willing to put the time in to lift weights. He’s so unselfish. He moved over to shortstop because that’s where his team needed him. Taylor batted No. 1 or No. 2 and had to set the table. That took points off his own stats and he didn’t care about that. He cared about winning.”
Gold will attend Arizona State in the fall.
“If I get the courage, I might try to walk-on for baseball,” said Gold. “But I’m going there to get an education.”
Dunlap will attend Stanislaus State and try out for baseball.
“Their coaching staff was friendly and they were right to the point, which I liked,” said Dunlap. “I feel pretty confident I can make their team. I know it will take a lot of hard work.”
Summing up the 2011 season, Dunlap said, “It’s an indescribable feeling knowing that our year will hang on a banner right up there with (1977 Bears first baseman) John Hard and his teammates. We could feel the whole community behind us this season and it definitely made a difference to us.”
“I’d see John Hard all the time,” said Gold, “and he’d say, ‘Do it!’ (1977 Bear) Kevin Day would be telling my father all the time, ‘Keep it going!’ Having this community behind us meant everything. Personally, it was really special for me to be able to share this with my dad.”
“What a season it was,” said Dunlap. “Being competitive? That was our first step. But to win the MLL? To get to the section title game? The whole thing was just out of this world and I will never forget it.”