Clutch double gives Foothill of Palo Cedro a section title and lets Dalton Kelly end career with 51-game streak of getting on base.
It wasn’t the first time in the last 51 games that Dalton Kelly’s streak of reaching base at least once came down to a last plate appearance, only this time it was literally the final at-bat for him in a Foothill of Palo Cedro baseball uniform.
With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the eighth inning of last week’s CIF Northern Section Division I title game against a Pleasant Valley of Chico team that had dealt Foothill its only two losses of a 29-2 season, the senior came through big time.
Kelly’s walk-off double not only delivered the fifth section championship for Foothill, it meant a much better ending than having the streak end at 50 in a loss.
Now, after last week and all season’s performances, and a three-year varsity career that saw him reach base 72 out of 75 games, plus academic excellence, Kelly has been selected as the ESPNHS Cal-Hi Sports State Athlete of the Week.
Team versus the streak
“It’s happened a few times that I’ve waited until my last at bat, but I wasn’t really focusing on the streak, I was focused on winning,” Kelly told Cal-Hi Sports.
“Our five seniors remembered how we got beat in the first round of the playoffs last year, so we came out right at the beginning with conditioning and hitting the weight room,” continued Dalton. “By the end of the season, we were a different team than the one that lost twice to Pleasant Valley.”
Area Code experience
Out of 30 players from Northern California selected for the Oakland Athletics Area Code team that competed last summer in Long Beach, Kelly was the only one from the CIF Northern Section.
Although the Northern Section is the second largest section in the state area-wise, stretching from just north of Sacramento further north than the Redding suburb of Palo Cedro and all the way to the Oregon border, it has one of the smaller population bases of all the sections.
The fact Kelly was chosen to represent his area was not lost on the Cougars’ star.
“I was in awe at our (Athletics) first practice,” said Kelly, who also carries a 3.73 GPA. "Playing with the best kids in the nation? What an honor and fun experience.”
College or pros
Although Dalton plans on studying physics, chemistry and calculus at UC Santa Barbara, which is where he signed a letter of intent, some scouts feel the 6-foot-2 lanky left-handed hitting and fielding first-baseman could be drafted high enough to make him think.
“I try to stay away from thinking about the draft. I just focus on playing baseball and letting it take me where it goes.”
“He’s the hardest working athlete I’ve ever had,” said Foothill coach and P.E. teacher Todd Buck, who won his first section title.
“Dalton is real upbeat with the guys and this year he’s become more of a vocal leader. Plus, he never misses a day in the weight room, and then he heads to the cages. As a senior, he got out of school earlier so he’d put in 700 swings a week before we even started practice; so most of the time he was the first one at practice and the last one to leave.”
Kelly played on the Cougars’ basketball teams that went 22-9 last season and 22-7 two years ago, both times advancing into the Northern Regional playoffs.
This past season he averaged 7.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game.
“I love playing defensive basketball and shutting down the other team’s best player.”
Jason Kelly, Dalton’s father, played baseball at Enterprise of Redding. He’s currently a counselor at Shasta College where he also founded the school’s Athletes in Action program.
His mother, Mandi Kelly, who owns a hair salon, played softball, volleyball and ran track at nearby Anderson.
Little brother Luke Kelly, a sophomore at Foothill, plays football and baseball and was moved up to varsity baseball for the playoffs.
The big day
After being scouted by Athletes in Action, it was suggested Dalton try out for a team that would minister to people and play baseball this summer in the Dominican Republic.
Not surprisingly, he made the team and leaves on June 7 for a month in the Caribbean.
“Its going to be awesome. I’m really looking forward to it. The players are from across the country so I don’t know anyone.”
Team: “San Francisco Giants.”
Player: “J.T. Snow. He’s my man.”
Baseball movie: “Moneyball.”
Music: “Alternative Rock.”
Car: “Dodge Viper.”
Food: “Italian. Fettuccini Alfredo.”
Vacation spot: “Ireland.”
Looking forward to in college
“Obviously baseball, meeting new people, and the responsibility of being on my own.”
Advice for youngsters
“Focus in the classroom because to get good grades you have to work hard in class. School has gotten me where I am today.”
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