Buchanan, Clovis West lead in wild TRAC baseball race

Clovis West senior second baseman Chase Prieto is leading the TRAC in hitting at .407 and leads his team in runs with 26. The Golden Eagles (18-4, 5-2) are currently tied with Buchanan atop the TRAC standings. (Contributed by Stan Miyake)

After seven games what can we say about the wild world of TRAC baseball?

Well, this is for sure – it’s anyone’s game.

Halfway through the 15-game schedule, a bevy of excellent teams are fighting for league supremacy, creating a logjam that may or may not be sorted out by the end of league.

Clovis West coach Kevin Patrick said that the TRAC champion might end up with four losses. And who knows, maybe there will be a tie atop the standings, or perhaps a three-way tie?

Buchanan coach Tom Donald in his 21st year at the helm sums it up this way: “It’s wide open because there’s not a dominant team. It’s exciting. If you’re looking for the easy way out then this isn’t the year to coach.”

OK, so first let’s look at the standings as of April 16: Clovis West (5-2), Buchanan (5-2), Clovis North (4-3), Clovis East (4-3), Clovis (3-4), Central (0-7).

Let me try and break this craziness down for you during the week of April 8-13: Clovis East swept Clovis North in their two-game series, shocking the then 4-1 Broncos with a 12-run rally over the final two innings in the first game behind a grand slam from Trevon Qualls. In the Friday nightcap, the Timberwolves scored three runs in the top of the seventh with four straight hits, all with two outs, from Danny Gamez, Carlos Fuentes, Qualls and Garrett Rose.

The same week, Buchanan came back in both of its wins against Clovis, including a 7-6 nail-biter in eight innings in a game the Bears were down 5-1. Three days later, the Bears rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to win 4-3. TJ Fondtain hit a homerun in Game 1.

Clovis West downed Central 1-0 in Game 1 behind senior pitcher Kohl Simas, then beat the Grizzlies 4-2 with Nick Castro on the hill. Dusty Schramm saved both games on the mound and belted a home run in the second game.

Buchanan is certainly used to success, evidenced by winning two of the last three D-I Central Section baseball titles and a three-year league record of 40-5. But it’s safe to say the Bears were feeling the pressure early this season with a record of 11-5-1 before the two-game sweep of Clovis.

However, something clicked this week before the Clovis series with the help of some self-evaluation.

“This was a good week in our program in that we turned a corner a little bit and are now playing with a little more confidence,” Donald said. “The coaching staff is looser and we realized we were grinding on them too hard before and that’s not the personality of this team. Kids are smiling again.”

Clovis senior Blake Sodersten (left), pictured with battery mate Darrien Miller (right), threw his second no-hitter of the season against Clovis West on April 6. Sodersten struck out six and walked two in the 4-0 win. (Contributed photo)

And there’s also some history to report after Clovis senior pitcher Blake Sodersten pitched his second no-hitter of the season on April 5, a 4-0 gem over Clovis West, striking out six with two walks. His other no-hitter was a 7-0 win on Feb. 24 against Tulare Western.

“My cutter was working a lot better than usual against Clovis West,” the tall right hander said. “The cutter is a pitch I just learned to throw this fall. It also helped that all four pitches were working just as well. After I got a feel for every pitch early in the game, I knew that I had full command for that game.”

Sodersten credits Cougars’ junior catcher Darrien Miller, his battery-mate for his historic performances, saying Miller is brother to him and “gives me all the confidence I possibly need because I have a lot of faith in what he does behind the plate. He is one incredible catcher to have.”

Clovis West and Buchanan play a huge two-game series on April 17 and 20.