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JJ SAYS: Six teams equals six champions

There is a Little League Tournament played each summer called the Tournament of Champions. Musing about that tournament got me to thinking that Petaluma could hold its own high school Tournament of Champions involving only Petaluma teams.

The city has three high school baseball teams and three high school softball teams. All six teams are league champions.

In the final year of the North Bay League and the Sonoma County League as we know them, Petaluma teams swept the pennants.

Casa Grande, under first-year coach Chad Fillinger, won the North Bay League baseball championship with a 12-2 record. At 18-6 with the league post-season tournament and North Coast Section playoffs still ahead, the Gauchos have a good shot at a 20-win season.

Petaluma is likely the last Sonoma County League baseball champion ever. The Trojans went 10-2 to win the league championship outright. Overall, the Petalumans, in coach Jim Selvitella’s second season, are 16-8.

And then there is St. Vincent’s Mustangs. In coach Stan Switala’s first season, the Mustangs, starting this week’s final two regular-season games, were 21-0 and already had the North Central League II championship wrapped up. Included in that score-plus one win total were victories over Terra Linda from the Marin County Athletic League and Piner from the Sonoma County League. Incidentally, Piner finished second to Petauma in the SCL and counted among its wins a 12-4 victory over the Trojans.

The Mustangs set their goal before a single pitch was thrown this season to win a North Coast Section championship. They are well on their way, picking up a championship pennant en route.

It is a similar story in softball.

Casa Grande is the softball surprise story of the Redwood Empire. The very young Lady Cougars battled in every game, and at the finish won a pennant, sharing first-place with Montgomery and Rancho Cotate, all with 10-4 league records. Overall, Casa Grande was 14-6 for the regular season.

Petaluma has several key senior leaders on its SCL championship team, but overall, the T-Girls are also a young team. Their youth didn’t stop them from winning the last-ever SCL softball championship with a sparkling 11-1 record and solid 18-5 overall mark.

Upstart Credo from Rohnert Park handed St. Vincent a rare league defeat, but when the league counting stopped, the Lady Mustangs were in their accustomed position atop the NCL II standings. Playing a schedule stacked with larger schools, St. Vincent is 9-7 overall.

The success we’re seeing at high school diamonds all over the city doesn’t just happen. It is the result of coaching and not just at the high school level.

Petaluma is blessed with some of the best youth coaches in the North Bay. The coaching begins at the T-ball level with some of the most patient, caring and understanding coaches you’ll find running pitching machines or lobbing pitches to learning batters. It continues on to the various Little League and Girls Softball Association levels.

By the time Petaluma’s young players are at the All-Star or travel-ball level, they are already at the Doogy Howser baseball level.

While we’re handing out flowers to the coaches, how about big bouquets for the high school assistant coaches. From freshman and junior varsity on through varsity, it is the assistant coaches who do a great majority of the teaching.

They don’t even work for peanuts. If they get paid at all, it is the equivalent of the shells of the peanuts the head coaches receive.

Yet they are the backbone of any successful program.

I’ll have much more to say about assistant coaches down the line, but the point is that they are a key link between youth sports and championship high school teams and Petalumans know a thing or two about championship high school teams.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)