The Union Democrat Sports Department

From a Sonora native pitching in the World Series to championship seasons for several area prep teams, the past year was filled with great moments in sports.

The following are ten stories that rose to the top:

Tigers hurler Coke helps lead Tigers into World Series

Where Phil Coke goes, the playoffs seem to follow. The Sonora native and Detroit lefty reliever, helped lead the Tigers into the World Series by saving games 2, 3 and 4 of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees in mid-October. Coke stepped up and delivered for Detroit head coach Jim Leyland when Tigers closer Jose Valverde faltered down the stretch.

Coke was overpowering in the postseason striking out 13 in 10 2/3 innings while allowing just one run. But that one run came in Game 4 of the World Series where the San Francisco Giants turned two bloop hits and a sacrifice into a run to claim their second world title in three years. Coke, a 2009 World Series champ with the New York Yankees, has played in the postseason in three of the last four years.

Redskin girls win league, section hoops championship

After falling in the championship game the year before, the Calaveras Redskins girls won the section championship in 2011-12 on Mar. 5. The Redskins, led by star guard Nikki Gleason and twins Bridgette and Brianna McGinness, cruised through the Mother Lode League to win their second straight title and earn the No. 1 seed in Division IV. The Redskins lived up to their ranking and disposed each playoff foe to claim the section crown. Calaveras continued its special season by earning a bye in the first round of the CIF State championships and a win in the second round to advance to the Elite Eight.

Skins grapplers win section, sixth straight MLL title

When talking about Mother Lode League wrestling, the Calaveras Redskins are at the center of the discussion. The Redskins flexed their muscles and captured their sixth consecutive league title on Feb. 2. Their success didn't end there. Led by State-wrestler Justin Barnes, the Skins went on to claim the section championship on Feb. 21.

Sonora Wildcat baseball enjoys historic season

The Wildcats went on a historic run in 2012, going to a place where only two Sonora baseball teams have gone before. Sonora, led by junior lefty hurler Ryan Stevenson, and coached by Scott Johnson, earned second place in the Valley Oak League and won its first playoff contest since 1994 on May 16.

A few days later, the Cats went on to defeat El Dorado 2-1 in the best of three series in the semifinals to advance to the section championship game. Stevenson earned all three playoff wins for the Wildcats. Sonora's attempt to win its second-ever section title, and first since 1989, fell short against arch-rival Oakdale, who beat the Cats all four times they played during the season.

Sonora's Grolle leads robust cross country effort

Sonora's Steven Grolle keeps running into the Wildcat history books. Grolle, as a sophomore, finished in third place on May 29 at the Masters track and field meet to become the first Wildcat since 2005 to qualify for the State Meet. After a summer of training, now a junior, Grolle picked up where he left off and won the Valley Oak League cross country title on Oct. 26, the Sub-Section title and the section championship. He qualified for the State Meet and ran to a 10th-place finish earning a medal.

Tiny Tioga pulled off a major accomplishment. Led by Matt Spring, the Timberwolves won the Division V section championship and qualified for the State Meet for the second consecutive season. Spring led the effort by winning the individual D5 title.

Other outstanding achievements came from Sonora's Samantha Smith who won the VOL title and also the Sub-Section crown the very next week and qualified for the State Meet the next week at the Masters Meet.

Summerville's Kristen Turner and Bret Harte's Tristan Boblet each won individual Mother Lode League titles and both advanced to the State competition.

Volley Cats continue dynasty, win sixth straight VOL crown

The Sonora Wildcats whipped arch-rival Oakdale 3-1 on the final day of the regular season, Oct. 29, to win their sixth straight Valley Oak League volleyball championship and seventh in eight years. The Cats, who were sophomore-dominated, featured just two seniors, co-captains Mariah Armstrong and Cassidy Knowles. The mix of experience and youth worked for Sonora as the talented squad won two playoff contests and advanced to the Final Four, as far as any Wildcat team.

Radford leads Bullfrog hoops to perfect MLL season

Led by high-scoring Dan Radford, the Bret Harte Bullfrogs went through the Mother Lode League perfect and claimed the championship in head coach Jerry Rucker's final season. Radford averaged well over 20 points and is currently the leading scorer on the Columbia Claim Jumpers. The Bullfrogs defeated their arch-rvials, the Calaveras Redskins, three times in league play and all came down to the finals seconds. The Bullfrogs earned the No. 2 seed in the Division IV playoffs and advanced to the final eight.

Frogs win fifth straight golf title by slimmest of margins

By the narrowest of margins, the Bret Harte Bullfrog boys golf team, led by Alex Milward, won its fifth consecutive Mother Lode League title. The Bullfrogs defeated the Summerville Bears by one stroke in the league championship tourney to claim the crown.

A week later, Milward and Sonora's Barrett McLaughlin each won their respective Divisional tournament on the same day, McLaughlin in D4, Milward in D5.

Bear girls win third MLL volleyball title in four seasons

The Summerville Bears romped through the Mother Lode League, winning 14 of 15 games to claim their third volleyball title in the last four years. Led by the league MVP, junior Breann Robinson, and seniors Courtney Robinson and Bella Bachtelle, the Bears lost just five games the whole season. The Bears earned a No. 5 seed in the Division IV playoffs, but suffered a first round defeat to Ripon.

Gino Albert's slam dunk leads Skins into Final Four

The Calaveras Redskin boys' basketball team was mostly overshadowed in 2011-12 by their rival Bret Harte and the success of the Redskin girls. But when it came to the playoffs, the Redskins showed how strong they were. Led by senior star Gino Alberts, the Redskins won a pair of playoff games to advance to the Final Four.

And the way they advanced featured the play of the year. With the Redskins trailing their quarterfinal game by one point with 1:36 left, Redskin guard Tyler Cook tossed an alley-oop pass to Alberts, who jumped out of the gym, grabbed the ball by the fingertips and slammed it home to give Calaveras a lead they would never surrender. A raucous celebration followed.