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Roseville's section baseball title touched many

Tigers' run thrilled the third-base gang, reconnected others and brought pride to the oldest school in town
By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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It was another banner year for Roseville Joint Union High School District teams with schools winning Sierra Foothill League, Capital Valley Conference, Sacramento Metro Athletic League and Sac-Joaquin Section titles, earning bids to the CIF Northern California Regional playoffs and even capturing one state crown: Oakmont wrestler Jake Elliott.

Roseville High School’s Division II section title in baseball was the definitive cherry on top, and not only because it was the district’s final title of the 2010-11 school year.

That Roseville’s previous section baseball championship was won 27 years earlier, in 1984, is only part of its significance. The championship brought pride to the high school, the oldest in the city. It gave a charge to the 1962 team that won the SFL title, many of whom still watch home games as the “third-base gang” under those shady trees. Hank DeMello Sr. played on that team and these days splits time watching his son coach the varsity squad and watching granddaughter Delany play softball for the Tigers.

“It was awesome,” Hank DeMello Jr. said Thursday, looking back. “When I was coaching third, they’d call me over and say, ‘Hey, did you see this? Did you see that?’ They wanted to make sure I was on my toes.

“Every year in February, they find out when we’re starting, get a schedule, ask how we’re looking. It’s old Roseville.”

They were known as the third-base gang when DeMello Jr. played American Legion ball for George Buljan. The team played doubleheaders on Saturdays, and the old crew would prep the field and make sure the players were taken care of.

“George would take them to the local watering hole after the game,” DeMello Jr. said. “The last month has been fun. Getting to the playoffs, they were very excited.”

DeMello said Don Roberts, the ace on the ’62 team, came away from a game at Sacramento City College with a scouting report on Rosemont, Roseville’s opponent in the single-elimination first round.

“He said, ‘We’re going to be there, by golly,’” DeMello said. “He was at every game.”

Vencil Brown was there. A longtime teacher at several schools in Roseville, he now has one named after him.

“Everybody in town knows Vencil. His mom ran all the snack bars,” said DeMello, who always got the first hot dog.

Roseville’s championship run reeled in people with whom DeMello had lost touch. He received e-mails from old players, coaches and friends. It was just Wednesday that DeMello was talking to a football coach at the school.

“He says, ‘I want to congratulate you. I want to thank you for bringing pride back to the school. What you guys did, wow, you can’t describe it,’” DeMello said.

On the day DeMello’s players turned in their uniforms, school was over for the summer on the campus that will turn 100 years old in 2012. The desks were pushed back so the carpets could get a shampoo. DeMello said his Tigers players stuck around for a good half-hour telling stories about the championship game, a 4-2 victory over Rocklin.

Said DeMello: “It was something I’ll never forget.”