Bell’s slam leads Clovis North to Fresno Easter Classic title

Clovis North captured the 49th Annual Fresno Easter Classic at Clovis West and moved to 15-2 on the season. (Paul Meadors/Clovis Roundup)

James Bell guessed right, and he surely wasn’t going to miss his opportunity.

Bell launched a two-out grand slam in the third inning to deep right center off a curveball to give Clovis North (15-2) a 6-4 lead in a rousing 9-6 win over Redwood, helping the Broncos capture the 49th Fresno Easter Classic title, a massive 36-team event over three days.

“I was sitting curveball and was glad I got it,” Bell said. “I was happy with my plate approach today. It’s difficult when you’re getting pitched the way I am, it’s been hard trying to adapt to that.”

championship game of the Fresno Easter Classic, lifting the Broncos to a 9-6 win over Redwood. (Photo courtesy of Nici Krammerer)

Bell would finish the night a perfect 3-3 with six RBI, earning tournament MVP. The University of Oregon signee went 10-18 overall with 12 RBI.

Bell burst onto the scene as a sophomore but as word got out, the power hitting catcher saw fewer and fewer pitches to hit, which continued into his junior season and into the 2018 season.

However, he’s learning to adjust, and that spells trouble for opponents.

“He’s the big name on our offense everyone knows,” Clovis North coach Jeff Prieto said. “But when he gets good pitches to hit he’s not missing them. He’s been very disciplined.”

Redwood (11-2-1), now in Division I for the 2018 playoffs up from D-II, scored four runs in the top of the second inning after Clovis North jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, leading Prieto to turn to pitcher Brett Jensen, who would throw 5 ⅓ innings to earn the win.

Leadoff hitter and second baseman Cason Brownell scored four times in going 3-3 and shortstop Garrett Cooper went 2-3 with two runs scored.

Jensen’s outing culminated an impressive Clovis North pitching run through five tournament games.

“Our pitchers were huge,” said Prieto, in his first year at Clovis North since moving over from Central. “You have to have pitching like that to get through a big tournament like this.”

Check out these monster complete game pitching performances for Clovis North: senior Mikell Chavez, 9 Ks in 7-1 win over Laguna Creek; senior Garrett Cooper, 8 Ks in 3-0 win over Jesuit and sophomore Riley Cooper, 11 Ks in 7-0 win over Foothill.

The Cooper Brothers were both named tournament Outstanding Pitchers for their performances. Along with Bell, Clovis East’s Jared Aguilar and Redwood’s Elijah Munoz were named tournament MVP.

The Cooper brothers (sophomore Riley, left, senior Garrett, right) earned Outstanding Pitcher awards, each throwing complete game victories during the Fresno Easter Classic. (Photo courtesy of Nici Krammerer)

The tournament win was the second of the season for Clovis North, who beat Clovis West 2-1 in the championship game of the Coca-Cola Classic on March 5.

The Broncos are 3-0 in league with a huge game at Clovis West (14-3, 3-0) on April 4.

“We’re pumped,” Bell said about how the season has unfolded. “We love our coaching staff and it’s just a really good vibe out here, we have good team chemistry. We are a selfless team.”

“This is the first team that truly plays for each other, there’s been moments in the past but this is the first.”