Merced's top sports stories of 2011 included Le Grand football, Doug Fister's rise

The shoes belonging to late student DeAngelo Smith hangs in the ceiling of the wrestling gym at Golden Valley high in Merced, Calif. Jan. 4, 2011. The team is dedicating this season to him.
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK The shoes belonging to late student DeAngelo Smith hangs in the ceiling of the wrestling gym at Golden Valley high in Merced, Calif. Jan. 4, 2011. The team is dedicating this season to him. Merced Sun-Star

The big ball has dropped and 2011 is officially in the books.

It was another great year for local sports. We had the opportunity of covering some great athletes and tremendous teams.Before we forge ahead to 2012, we thought we’d look back at the top 10 stories from 2011.

Let the countdown begin.

10. Volunteers’ state fiasco

It was a wild couple days for coach Rollo Adams and his players.

The Volunteers defeated San Mateo in the semifinals of the American Legion State Tournament in Yountville. However, after the game the tournament directors ruled Merced had to forfeit the victory for using an illegal bat.

Adams eventually appealed the ruling to the National American Legion headquarters and won.

The Vols were allowed to play for the state title and lost to the Chico Nuts, who were forced to win the championship twice.

9. MC's Sisco named NorCal Pitcher of the Year

It was quite a year for the Blue Devils’ ace.

The right-hander was named to the Central Valley Conference and NorCal Pitcher of the Year after recording an 11-1 record and a 1.66 ERA. Sisco also led the state in strikeouts with 124.

Sisco was eventually drafted in the third round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft by the Cleveland Indians.

8. Buhach Colony defeats Golden Valley 90-48

This football score from Oct. 28 drew national attention.

Golden Valley quarterback Ridge Bertuccio completed 38 of 67 passes for 573 yards and seven touchdowns. All are school records. The Cougars’ Andre Bodiker caught 12 passes for 263 yards and four touchdowns.

“It was like having your hands on the wheel of a car with no brakes,” Golden Valley coach Jake Messina said.

Buhach Colony racked up 680 rushing yards with Leon Miles, Tyler Dew and Shane Bell all topping 100 yards.

7. Huddleston transfers to Fresno State

Merced High's all-time leading scorer decided to leave the University of Pacific after his sophomore season.

After visiting and talking to a number of schools, Huddleston finally decided to transfer to Fresno State.

At one point Huddleston had to go on Twitter and put a stop to rumors he was headed to Boston College.

6. Hilmar wins section title

Talk about storybook endings.

With the score tied 17-all, Hilmar scores on the final drive to defeat Escalon 20-17 to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 championship.

In doing so the Yellowjackets (12-2) snapped Escalon’s 25-game winning streak and defeated the defending state champions.Hilmar had to set up with winning field goal with backup quarter Jonathan O’Brien after starter Andrew Olson broke his arm on the first play of the final drive. O'Brien completed all three of his passes to set up Kurtis Bettencourt’s 42-yard field goal.

5. UC Merced joins NAIA athletics

The Golden Bobcats were accepted by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in April and have begun fielding sports teams.

UC Merced hosted its first on-campus sporting event on Sept. 22 with a women’s volleyball game against Pacific Union.

The Bobcats competed in women’s volleyball and cross country this fall. The men’s basketball team just picked up its first win last week.

The school hopes to add women’s basketball and men’s or women’s soccer next year.

4. Golden Valley honors D-Lo

Every big match the Cougars went to this year they brought the wrestling shoes of former teammate DeAngelo Smith, who was shot and killed.

Golden Valley dedicated the season to "D-Lo" and went on to win the Central California Conference and Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 championships.

It was an emotional journey for a group of wrestlers who never forgot about their friend.

3. Buhach's Shittu and Cochran picked for national all-star games

Both Buhach Colony's Aziz Shittu and Matt Cochran will be playing all-star games on national TV this week. Cochran played in the Marine's U.S. Marines' Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Phoenix on Wednesday, announcing his commitment to Cal to a national audience. The game was broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

Teammate Aziz Shittu will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on NBC.

Shittu and Cochran are the first players from Merced County selected to play in national all-star games.

2. Fister shines

Golden Valley and Merced College star Doug Fister was traded from the Seattle Mariners to the Detroit Tigers on July 31.

The right-hander sparkled to help the Tigers win the American League Central Division and then reach the AL Championship Series.

Fister went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA in his 11 games with Detroit. He went 2-1 in the postseason, including a Game 5 win over the New York Yankees in the first round.

1. Le Grand football

The Bulldogs captured the attention of Merced County when they were selected to play for the state championship.

The communities of Le Grand, Planada and Plainsburg basically shut down as everyone flocked to Carson to watch the Bulldogs play Sierra Canyon.

Five rooter buses made the trip as about 2,000 Le Grand fans showed up at the Home Depot Center.

Le Grand jumped out to a 13-7 lead in the first quarter, but Sierra Canyon eventually pulled away for a 34-13 win.

The Bulldogs may have lost, but it's an event those communities won’t soon forget.