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Turlock spring teams looking to lead the way
Turlock baseball 1
Turlock's Owen Miller attempts to steal third base during a game against Elk Grove earlier this season (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

Spring sports are upon us — though it’s hardly seemed like spring at any point during 2023 because of the weather — and Central California Athletic League play has already started for several sports. Here’s a look at Turlock High School’s spring sports.

Baseball — The Bulldogs were CCAL co-champions last season with crosstown rival Pitman under head coach Sean Gilbert. 

This year, Mike Souza takes the reigns of a program that is traditionally one of the best in the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section. 

Souza coached the Turlock softball team previously and was also an assistant to former THS head coach Mark De La Motte and also to former Denair head coach Ron Cornell.

The Bulldogs are off to a 1-4 start, but they’ve played top notch competition in Buhach Colony, El Capitan, Lodi and Elk Grove.

Leading the way for Turlock this year will be senior pitcher Payton Hawkinson. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound southpaw has signed a letter of intent to play collegiately at Cal State Fullerton next year. He’s the ace of a rotation that includes juniors Carson Gonzales and Andrew Lujan.

“Pitching is going to be a question mark,” said Souza. “Especially in our league. It’s going to be a tall task.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs lack power, but they’ll make up for it with speed.

“We’re a young team offensively, but we have plenty of speed,” said Souza. “And you can do a lot with speed.”

Only three seniors are expected to be among the starting eight position players.

First baseman Kyle Parker, second baseman Gannon Evans and left fielder Sean Clark, who plays left field when he’s not pitching, are the lone seniors. Catcher Tyler Castro, third baseman Riley McCord, center fielder Carter Crivelli and Gonzales, who plays right field when he’s not pitching, are all juniors. Shortstop Josh Ramirez is a sophomore.

“We’re going to play defense,” said Souza, a 1997 graduate of Denair High. “Our outfield is going to be pretty fast and Ramirez has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. He’s that good.

“If you love defense, you’ll be pretty pumped to see us play. We’ve got speed and range. We can compete for a league title.”

Softball — Ever since the creation of the Central California Athletic League, Enochs and Gregori have been the class of the conference.

They’re again the teams to be in 2023. Turlock found that out on Thursday when the Eagles recorded a 14-0 victory over the Bulldogs — just days after the ’Dogs defeated Downey 14-4 in the CCAL opener for both teams.

Against Downey, Gianna Roe, Katelynn Thompson and Cadee Campbell each toed the slab in the victory, while Ayla Lacerda.

Campbell was the hitting star, going 4-for-4 with a pair of homers, a triple, a bunt single, four RBIs and a stolen base. Lacerda, meanwhile, was 3-for-3 with a home run and two steals. Jaysee Rubio went 1-for-2 in the contest, but her lone hit was a grand slam. Thompson was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs.

Hailey Bacon, who led the CCAL in home runs last year, will also provide offensive push for the Bulldogs this year.

Turlock will host Hughson today and resumes league play on Tuesday when it travels to take on Modesto, and hosts rival Pitman on Thursday.

Swimming — While other spring sports have been affected by the wet weather, swimming has been able to maintain its schedule. The boys and girls teams are both undefeated to start the season and both recorded first-place finishes at the prestigious NorCal Relays, hosted by Johansen High in Modesto.

In Friday’s CCAL action, Turlock’s boys defeated Downey 132-37, while the girls breezed to a 124-43 victory over the Knights.

Key returners for the girls — who were undefeated CCAL champs last year — are senior Abigail Braley and junior Kaylee Amarant, the league’s co-MVPs in 2022, as well as seniors Keelei Rocha-Long and Lia Romero and sophomore Liv Romero.

“We’re looking forward to a new swim season with many young swimmers joining our program for the first time this season,” said coach Anne Cornell. “Girls are swimming out of their normal swim events this season and looking forward to a new direction. The team is putting in the long yards and looking forward to a great season.”

The boys will be led by brothers Cohen (senior) and Cooper (sophomore) Harris, Mitchell Clark and Sam Stempson, who are routinely double winners for the Bulldogs while also participating in multiple relay events.

Golf — The Bulldogs were the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 2 champions last year and will once again be led by Clark Van Gaalen, who has committed to play collegiately at the University of Oklahoma.

Tennis — The boys tennis team is the defending CCAL co-champions with Downey) and started the season 3-0. They are led by team captains Peter Wilson (junior), Joe Chan (senior), and Gabriel Sorisho (senior). 

Wilson is the reigning CCAL most valuable player, and was runner-up in the league’s individual tournament, losing out to Chan in the final.

Track and Field — Turlock’s girls are out to defend their 2022 championship, while the boys are looking to improve on a runner-up finish to rival Pitman.

So far, they’re both of coach Bergann Hernandez’s squads are off to fantastic starts.

In the first league meet this week, the girls won with 262.5 points, followed by Modesto (127) and Pitman (62). Meanwhile, the boys totaled 234 points, followed by Pitman (152) and Enochs (92).

Leading the way for the girls this year will be junior Olivia Walker (200, 400, 4x100, 4x400, high jump), sophomore Zoe Lamur (400, 4x100, 300 low hurdles, 4x400), senior Ella Spaulding (100 low hurdles, 300 low hurdles, discus, 4x400), junior Evelyn Ladine (4x100, 100 low hurdles, 300 low hurdles), junior Shay Roy-Williams (100, 200, 4x100, long jump, triple jump), sophomore Brooke Schumacher (pole vault, 100 low hurdles, long jump, hight jump), senior Allyson Petersen (pole vault, 100 low hurdles) and junior Eva Torres (800, 4x400, 400, 1,600).

The foursome of Walker, Lamur, Spaulding and Torres recorded 1,600-meter relay time of 3:59.79 Friday night at a meet in Clovis. Their time was about 2.5 seconds off the school record they set last season.

Leading the way for the boys this year will be junior Max McFarlane (pole vault, long jump, triple jump, high jump), senior Gavin Cox (100 high hurdles, 300 intermediate hurdles), senior Phoenix Bradshaw-Nunes (shot put, discus), junior Lester Stavrianoudakis (shot put, discus), sophomore Teddy Santos (800, 1,600, 3,200 4x400), junior Steven Salazar (100, 200, 400, 4x100, 4x400), junior Julian Hernandez (400, 800, 1,600, 4x400), senior Peter Mello (100, 200, 4x100), junior Benhniya Esmaeilabadi (800, 1,600, 3,200) and senior J.T. Foreman (100, 200, 400, 4x100, 4x400).