Paul Martinez can't move like he used to. There's no more side-to-side movement to save his life.
And even if he could, the Del Campo High School baseball coach was hopelessly outnumbered by a pack of Cougars bent on drenching him.
Martinez took the celebratory water cooler bath in basking in his team's 2-0 victory over Benicia to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game on Monday night at Sacramento City College.
It's the third title for the storied Cougars, and the third for Martinez, in his first season at Del Campo. The Cougars won D-I titles under coach Harry Kawahata in 1985 and '95, and Martinez hoisted D-II blue championship banners in 1995 and '97 at San Juan.
"I'll wear it all the way home," Martinez said of his soaked Del Campo garb on a chilly night at Sacramento City College's Union Stadium that felt more like Candlestick Park. "I couldn't be happier for this group. It's a great group of guys. They worked so hard to get here."
Sam Long was terrific in his last high school start, tossing a five-hitter with six strikeouts and walking just one. He transferred to the Fair Oaks school following a nice run at Rosemont under Martinez. Both agonized over leaving Rosemont, an achieving school in the Sacramento City Unified School District, because of uncertainty of the athletic programs. Sports programs in the SCUSD were on the cutting block in each of the past two summers due to budgetary fears, but were retained.
Long is a junior academically, pulling straight-A's, but he plans to graduate in December and head to Sacramento State to start his scholarship tour for coach Reggie Christiansen. Winning the hearts of his teammates during early season drills after sitting out a CIF-mandated 30 days per transfer policy, Long tossed his second playoff gem. He struck out 14 in a 3-1 victory over Bethel of Vallejo in that best-of-three series.
"I can't put it into words how good this feels," Long said. "What a great team."
Long was backed by typical superb Del Campo defense, headed by infielders Jared Biggs, who had two hits, and Derek Rodigo, who scored the first run for a 1-0 lead in the second. Tim Hall drove home Biggs, who doubled, in the sixth to make it 2-0 as the Cougars touched Panthers ace Ryan Bohnet, who came in sporting a 9-0 record in allowing three earned runs all spring.
Also playing well this season and Monday for Del Campo: Tyler Swank, Mike Hatfield, Mike Ramirez, Davis Rodigo, Adrian Rocha and Tim Land.
So ends the journey for a host of Del Campo seniors who dreamed of winning a title to cap their careers. Biggs said that this will be bittersweet. Sweet for the title and bitter since so many are moving on. The players said they won this title for their school, their community, their families and their coach, who immediately offered structure within a program he grew up playing against.
Martinez played sports at nearby La Sierra 30 years ago. That school closed in 1983. Martinez lives barely a relay throw from the Del Campo, so he in effect returned to his neighborhood roots. He's a historian of the Del Campo program, able to peel off names and efforts.
Now he's part of that history with plans to hang a championship banner on the Del Campo backstop that displays the 1985 and '95 achievements.
"We won this for our coach," Rodigo said. "He was there every day getting the field ready. He gave us the tools to succeed."
Del Campo overcame a rash of injuries early in the season and came together in the Fresno Easter Tournament. A 12-game winning streak was doused by two losses to Christian Brothers in league play before the playoff run.
- Joe Davidson
- On Twitter: @SacBee_JoeD
- On Podcast: ESPN1320.net
- On Cable: SureWestSports.com