Oakdale ace bound for UCLA

Nick Vander Tuig's future appears to be secure, though the Oakdale High right-hander has three months before the baseball season begins.

A 6-foot-3 senior and an all-state selection last spring, Vander Tuig has signed a letter of intent to attend and play baseball at UCLA.

He plans to major in business management, "but won't make that decision until I am sure," said Vander Tuig, who said UCLA's location and academics also influenced his decision. "And, of course, the baseball program."

Vander Tuig, whose parents are Duane and Sally, has spent time at first base, shortstop and in the outfield for Oakdale. His primary position, though, is pitching.

UCLA plans on using him exclusively as a pitcher, with a goal of using him to starter. He was 8-1 with an 0.82 ERA last spring, striking out 80 in 59º innings. He hit .425, with three homers and 29 RBIs.

Vander Tuig, whose brother Ryan is a junior playing at San Jose State, has this advice for kids hoping to follow his path: "Always outwork the other guy, never be complacent, work hard in the classroom and be coachable."

STESHA BRAZIL -- The Hilmar catcher signed with Houston, after verbally committing to the Cougars in the spring. She will major in kinesiology, with the goal of being a physical therapist.

"I loved the Texas atmosphere," Brazil said. "I also wanted to play on a good softball team that would have a chance to make an appearance at the World Series."

She'll have an opportunity to play catcher, and first and third -- positions she plays on her travel team, All-American Sports Academy. The pact is 80 percent athletic and 20 percent academic, with an annual value of about $29,000.

She has advice for younger players, as well.

"Grades are a huge part of being recruited," said Brazil, whose parents are Stephanie and Stephen. "Grades are one of the first things a college looks at. Another thing, coaches aren't going to find you. You have to contact them. They get thousands of letters, so make yourself stand out so the coaches want to see you."

STEPHANIE YOUNG -- The Pitman swimmer signed with South Dakota State, where she will major in exercise science. "I loved the small town of Brookings," She said. "Everyone there is very friendly and welcoming, and I really fit in well with the team."

She expects to swim the 100- and 200-yard breast and the 200 individual medley, and sees the scholarship as a reward for challenging herself.

"Challenge yourself not only in your sport but also in school," said Young, whose parents are Emy and Roger.

DANIEL COVRIG -- The reigning section Masters golf champion, Covrig signed with UC Davis. The runner-up to Turlock's Sam Smith (a freshman at USC on a golf scholarship) for The Bee's Player of the Year last spring, he has an opportunity to become one of only five players to win overall section golf championships.

Smith won the Masters title in 2006 and '07 -- it brings together the top golfers from all the divisions -- and the other three players accomplished it before the section split to the multi-division format in 1989. The section only revived the Masters format in 2007.

ALANNA JONES -- A multi-position player for Oakdale's softball team, she signed with Davis & Elkins of West Virginia. The Senators (team GPA of 3.25 last spring) have five Stanislaus District kids on the roster, including sisters Britne and Kortne Bacca (Denair), and Daniella and Amber Vineyard (Atwater). Johansen's Carissa Dunn is the fifth, and the Bacca's father, Jim, is the head coach.

Jones will major in exercise medicine at Davis & Elkins, ranked as one of the top 30 liberal arts colleges by US News and World Reports. She pitches, plays short and the outfield, and hits left-handed.

Her words of advice to aspiring scholar-athletes include:

"Remember, you don't have to be outstanding. There are not a lot of superstars, just a lot of average and above-average players," said Jones, whose parents are Dennis and Synthia Jones. "Work on basic mechanics, not the fancy stuff. Coaches look for potential in teachable players.

"I did not start pitching until I was a freshman. Most people said I started too late to get very far -- and that pitching lessons were a lot of money for my parents to waste. Set your goals, academically and athletically, and work hard to achieve your goals."