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Journalists love to make lists. Just browse the internet for a few minutes and you’re sure to encounter a few: the top 500 albums in rock ’n’ roll history; the top five movies of all-time; the top 10 vacation destinations; the 100 greatest novels in American Literature.
Well, we’re no different here at the Turlock Journal, especially when it comes to the end of the year. So, here’s our list of the top five local sports stories of 2022.
No. 5: Turlock golf dominates — The Bulldogs finished the 2021-22 school year when the boys team posted a second consecutive undefeated Central California Athletic League season and went on to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship, riding a 69 from Clark Van Gaalen, who would go on to win the league MVP award. Later in the year, starting off the 2022-23 school calendar, the Bulldogs’ girls team also captured league and section titles.
For them, however, it wasn’t the usual heroes. Sydney Streeter, the 2021 CCAL most valuable player, and Savannah Van Gaalen, who would claim the league’s 2022 MVP prize, shot 82 and 83, respectively, about 10 strokes where they might normally be for a round played at Turlock Golf and Country Club, their home course and site of the section tourney. Instead, junior Isabella Dowd and sophomore Reece Benjamin upped their games when it was needed most. Dowd shot a 2-over-par 74 and Benjamin carded an 86 — both scores well under their seasonal averages. Natalia Lightfoot rounded out Turlock’s individual scores with a 90, giving the Bulldogs a team score of 415, 47 shots better than CCAL rival Enochs (462).
No. 4: Pitman volleyball makes another deep run — The Pride are no strangers to making deep runs in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs, having reached the semifinals from 2013 to 2016, and winning titles in 2014 through 2016. But the Pride hadn’t made a playoff run that deep since 2016, when they won the NorCal title and played for a state championship. And this year, with a bevy of young talent, wasn’t supposed to be the year they made their return to the Final Four. But return they did. And with freshmen Maryn Hall and Aila Reich, along with juniors Payton Rowell, Ella Sniezek and Madison Eissayou returning next year, the Pride could very well end up being the No. 1 sports story in 2023.
No. 3: Turlock’s Tyler Soderstrom inches closer to the big leagues — The graduate of Turlock High was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the first round — 26th overall — of the 2020 draft. The 6-2, 200-pounder started the 2022 season in High-A Lansing of the Midwest League, then was promoted to Midland of the Texas League. After the RockHounds’ final game of the season on Sept. 17, Soderstrom was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League.
“We were in Midland, finishing up our last series,” said Soderstrom, whose father, Steve, was a first-round pick of the San Francisco Giants in 1993. “… My manager pulled me aside and told me the news. I was obviously really happy and really excited.”
In 134 games with three teams, Soderstrom hit .267 with 29 home runs and 105 RBI’s, with a slash line of .324/.501/.825. During his first year of pro ball, Soderstrom hit .306 with 12 homers, 49 RBI’s and a slash of .390/.568/.957. He’s now listed as the No. 1 prospect in the A’s organization with an estimated big-league arrival date of 2024, which would probably make him a lock for the top local sports story two years from now.
No. 2: Turlock Christian pitcher Gavin Farinha bursts onto national stage — The 6-foot, 190-pound left-hander was the most dominant pitcher in the area last year. Maybe the most dominant in the section. Perhaps even the state. Farinha posted a 12-0 record in 12 starts with an ERA of 0.00 and an opponents' batting average of .036. But that’s not even the impressive part: he threw six no hitters and allowed more than one hit in a game (3) just one time. Farinha struck out 155 batters in 72 innings pitched. Do the math. That’s more than two batters per inning. In a 5-1 win against Foresthill — one of two teams to scratch across an unearned run against him — Farinha struck out 20 of the 24 batters he faced. The high point came when Farinha tossed a one-hitter with 14 strikeouts in a 1-0 victory over Valley Christian for the Division VII section crown.
Now a senior, Farinha was one of 12 pitchers in the United States to post an ERA of 0.00, led the nation with six no-hitters, while his 12 victories and 155 strikeouts were the third-highest totals in the country.
Farinha, who signed to play at the Master’s University in Santa Clarita, is another top candidate to become 2023’s top-ranked sports story.
And the No. 1 local sports story for 2022 … can we get a drumroll, please? …
Turlock High’s football team stuns St. Mary’s to reach the section semifinals — The Bulldogs entered the season not as the hunted, but as the hunter after having lost the 2021 CCAL title to Downey. The Knights made it two in a row again this fall when they pulled out a 24-22 win over THS on a last-second field goal at Joe Debely Stadium. When the postseason brackets were announced, most experts, after a quick glance, figured Turlock would be one-and-done, with powerful St. Mary’s looming in the second round. After all, St. Mary’s was the team that blasted the team (Central Catholic) that beat the team (Manteca) that blew out Turlock earlier in the season. Heck, this was a St. Mary’s team that beat De La Salle. De La Salle!
Call it whatever you want. Call it overconfidence on the Rams’ part, call it a lack of momentum after St. Mary’s received a first-round bye, it doesn’t change the fact that the Bulldogs trailed by a single touchdown, with possession of the ball, late in the game. And after scoring the touchdown that made it 50-49 with just over a minute to play, Bulldogs’ coach James Peterson wasted no time in going for a two-point conversion — a jump pass from Cole Gilbert to Andrew Johnson that sent Turlock to the section semifinals for the first time in 20 years.
The Bulldogs received a rousing send-off, complete with police escort out of town for their semifinal matchup against Oak Ridge. And though that game resulted in a 24-0 defeat for Turlock, it could not diminish the fact that the Bulldogs recorded one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Division I playoffs.
An upset worthy of being the year’s top local sports story.