By Paul Meadors | Sports Editor
If you’re an adventurous soul like me, anytime you hear the words “road trip!” your ears perk up and you scream “I’m there!” without knowing the details.
Well, in my case I went on a basketball adventure, a one-day trip by myself. But no worries, I spent one of the most thrilling and wildest 16 and a half hours in recent memory on Saturday, March 18 when I stuffed my laptop, notepad and my trusty pen into my backpack and traveled to Long Beach at 9 a.m. to watch those nationally ranked Clovis West basketball stars play in the SoCal finals. They played in the aptly named The Pyramid at Long Beach State and what a grand and glorious day it was as they finally got past nemesis Long Beach Poly with a 53-44 victory.
The entire day was filled with thrills and chills, the Golden Eagle faithful coming in droves, packing the arena and waving Cardinal and Gold pom poms in the air like they just don’t care. Long after the trophy ceremony, the winners posed for pictures with friends, family and fans alike outside the arena, the setting sun reflecting on the faces of the proud. I left the parking lot at 8:30 p.m., found some tacos, loaded up on Starbucks and made my way home, my mind still racing from the adrenaline rush of watching such a high level basketball game end in victory, rolling in my driveway at 1:17 a.m. So worth it.
And now on Saturday, March 26, the pride of Clovis West will be playing for the granddaddy of them all – a state Championship – and you bet your bottom dollar I’ll be there at the newly christened Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. They are an incredible 32-2 this season and ranked No. 1 in the nation in one USA Today ranking. This is not only a once-in-a-life opportunity for the girls and Coach Craig Campbell but a chance for those in the Clovis West community and the Central Valley to rally around a great team to help to bring the gold back to their school. Remember, this is the toughest division in the state. Not since the 2001 Hanford girls team has a Central Section team won a state basketball title. It’s time to bring it home.
So.who’s with me? Let’s blaze a trail up the 99 and be a part of California state history. Everyone say it with me: “Road trip!” Let’s gooooooooo.
Nationally ranked Clovis softball wins Las Vegas tournament
The Clovis softball team ended 2016 with a tough loss to Buchanan in the Valley title game, but the Cougars have come out of the gate like wildcats, winning the Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas played March 9-11.
The Cougars outscored opponents 42-8, winning three games in five days, capping off the successful trip by beating Bishop Manogue 7-3 in the championship game.
“I felt we got better over the weekend, as well as grew closer as a team,” said head coach Mike Noel. “We have plenty to improve upon, but I was impressed with how we handled adversity and more importantly how we handled success.”
Riding the phenomenal pitching of junior Danielle Lung, a Fresno State commit who went 5-0 with 34 Strikeouts in 27 innings and the torrid hitting of Jordyn Martinez and her 9-13 tournament, including three home runs and seven RBIs, they improved to 7-0 as a team at that time.
Ashley Kincaid, a senior outfielder went 7-13 with two double and two triples and seven RBIs in the tournament and Grace Henson, a sophomore infielder, hit a homer and a double with five RBIs in the final.
Lung started every game but only pitched two innings innings in a 18-2 win over Bishop Gorman in the opening game. The early season rain put her behind schedule as far as building up her inning and stamina.
“She threw a couple of games not as fresh as she normally would be and was forced to compete more than maybe she normally would because her velocity wasn’t where it usually is,” said Noel. “She did a great job of fighting and our defense made some big plays behind her. Very proud of her effort.”
With their hot start to the season the Clovis made appearances in some state and national polls. The Cougars debuted on MaxPreps National Xcellent 25 and are now No. 9 in the state on Cal-Hi Sports.
With the three bombs, Martinez tied the school record of 14, tying Amanda Scott and Alyssa Caballero on the all-time Cougars list.
Despite their hot start, Clovis did suffer a surprise defeat at the hands of Bullard on March 17, a 6-1 loss with Lung on the mound. But, the Cougars are looking like a force once again this season.
“They’re a hard working, talented group who are learning what it takes to win consistently,” said Noel. “I think they can be a team that wins a lot of different ways. Danielle gives us a chance each game, but we’re working to become more than that. The girls want to be a team that shows up each game willing to do what’s necessary to win. They are great representatives of our school, our community and of Clovis Softball.”
Clovis West golf looks for success this season
The boys golf team at Clovis West is off to a strong start to the season, winning the Stockdale tournament, a tone-setter for sure to start the season. But, looming large is defending TRAC and Valley champion Clovis North, returning three of their top seniors from last season. The Clovis Roundup caught up with Golden Eagles second-year head coach Jason Simonetti to talk about the season so far and what to look for during the season.
How’s the team is shaping up this year?
This year has the makings to be something special. The boys do a great job of pushing each other and keeping their sights on what is in front of us and staying in the moment. We all share a common goal and that’s to win, at all stages. We have a mixed bag of class ranks from Freshman to Seniors on our roster but we know that everyone contributes and that keeps the guys working hard.
Clovis West won the Stockdale Invitational. How did that play out?
That was a good win for us against a tough field with a majority of TRAC teams in the field. The team faced some adversity mid-round as we weren’t playing to our potential. With about six holes for each player remaining I knew we had to finish strong to have a shot at winning and that’s what the boys did. We played our last six holes (per player) at 2 under par as a team. That is the heart and grit that this team has that makes it something special.
Who are the standouts on the team? I know Cameron DeLaere, who will play at Fresno State next season, is playing lights out. How good of a player is he and what are his strengths?
Cameron has been playing well, coming off a round of 71 at the Stockdale Invite to finish second individually, and is our Captain. He is a leader on and off the golf course for our team, encouraging his teammates to put the hard work in and grind out the hours it takes to be as competitive as we can be. He leads by example, he engulfs himself in golf and won’t stop until he has mastered what it is he is working on. The work ethic and heart that a coach can only dream of having from his players.
Other standouts are Tyler Gardner, a junior, who has played Varsity all 3 of his years. He is currently averaging under par and verbally committed to continuing his golf career at Fresno State alongside Cameron. Kyle Kuest, is a Sophomore that played every Varsity match as a freshman. Kyle has come a long way since last season and looking to cement his own chapter of a Kuest Legacy here at Clovis West following his brother Peter.
TRAC match play started March 20 for all teams.
TRAC baseball is in full swing
TRAC baseball is back, a little earlier than last year (a week to be exact) and if the first games played on March 17 are any indication, it’s gonna be an intense hard-fought 15 games. But, I’m sure you already knew that. For an in depth look at what many pundits are calling the strongest high school baseball league in the state, go ahead and read through my sizable TRAC preview located in this issue of the Clovis Roundup – your one-stop shop for all your TRAC sports needs.
There is much hype surrounding Buchanan and for good measure – they are ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 2 in the nation by USA Today, MaxPreps and Baseball America – and they’ve sent a message so far this season by starting 11-0 and then opened up TRAC play with a combined no-hitter. Seniors Carson Olson and Kyle McKinney followed by sophomore Jake King combined on the no-no in the 9-0 win over Central.
Clovis North took care of Clovis West 5-1 behind the pitching of emerging star Justin Fuson and his five strikeouts through six innings. Sophomore outfielder Brock Jones hit a homerun and Fuson helped himself with an RBI double.
Clovis High used 11 hits to beat Clovis East 9-2, including outfielder Tyson Fraser 2-4 RBI, shortstop Mason Grotto 2-3, 2B, 3B, 2 runs and 2 RBIs and winning pitching Chet Allison went 3-4 with a double and 3 RBI. Allison.