The Buchanan baseball team clinched the outright TRAC title in a most unconventional and anti-climatic way – with a loss.
With two games remaining in league and with the Bears, the state’s No. 3 ranked team according to Cal-Hi Sports holding a two-game lead over Clovis, any combination of a loss by the Cougars or a win by the Bears and whoop there it is, TRAC title secured.
Standing in the way of a Buchanan celebration was a two-game series against Clovis North starting on May 9 and a team, like Buchanan, with a lot of talent.
Clovis West did its part in beating Clovis 4-0 shutout behind the strong pitching of Nick Falco, so all Buchanan had to do was, well, play the game.
And sure enough, the Broncos (17-11, 9-6) upset the Bears 3-2 thanks in part to a complete game from Justin Fuson, creating a cheerless and melancholy celebration from Buchanan. Winning the TRAC is quite an accomplish, considering it’s one of the most talented leagues in the state, but no one wants to win by losing.
Nonetheless, Buchanan (26-3, 13-2) bounced back in a big way, using five strong pitching innings from senior Carson Olson and a two-run home run from Quentin Selma and a three-run blast from Matt McGrady to cruise to a 13-2 victory on Friday, May 12.
“It was an odd feeling, it’s never quite happened to us like that but TRAC championships are hard to come by so we’ll take it,” said Buchanan head coach Tom Donald. “I told them I was very proud of them for bouncing back after a difficult loss, really showed some character with our team with our senior class.”
In the top of the third the Bears exploded for seven runs highlighted by Selma’s home run and a three-run double from sophomore second baseman Brady Hormel, stretching the lead to 8-1.
After a slow start to the season for Selma, a Cal signee who hit .444 last season, he admits he was pressing a little too hard early but now is swinging a hot stick.
“I was a little impatient and my approach has changed to see a few more pitches, I had to get out of my own way,” said Selma. “We had a chip on our shoulders after the Tuesday loss, we did a great job of coming out swinging and hitting the ball hard.”
The Bears opened up the game in the bottom of the fifth on Matt McGrady’s first home run of the season as they cruised to the 13-2 win.
For McGrady it was a nice touch to end the regular season – he was actually cut from the 8th grade team but that setback did not deter his drive to succeed. He will be playing at Fresno Pacific University next season on a baseball scholarship.
“He didn’t let that stop him [being cut], he really worked hard to get where he is at in the game,” said Donald. “It’s been a lot of fun seeing him progress as a hitter and a baseball player, he’s done a great job for us.”
Buchanan was awarded the No. 1 seed in the Division I playoffs and are the two-time defending Central Section champions. The Bears ended last season with a 30-1 record and No. 1 national ranking by multiple publication and are currently ranked No. 6 in the nation by MaxPreps.
The last team to win three consecutive Division I titles was Clovis in 2001, 02, and 03 – ironically all against Buchanan.
Clovis High was the No. 3 seed, Clovis North No. 4, Clovis West No. 5, Clovis East No. 10.
“It’s win or go home, but we are just going to give it our best shot,” said Olson.