By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
Playing four games in four days against some of the best high baseball competition in the nation, Buchanan and Clovis North represented themselves and the Valley very well, going a combined 5-3 at the National Baseball Classic in Anaheim during Spring Break, a 16-team field featuring schools from California, Arizona and Florida.
Buchanan came to the tournament with a target on its back, and for good reasons: they are the defending national champs, currently No. 1 ranked in the state and by most national publications, and were undefeated at 17-0.
After opening up with a 7-3 win over Esperanza behind the strong pitching of sophomore T.J. Fondtain and a grand slam from sophomore second baseman Brady Hormel, the Bears (20-1) suffered their first defeat of the season to Sunrise Mountain from Arizona 11-7.
Sunrise Mountain, ranked No. 15 in Arizona at the time, bolted to a 8-1 lead after three innings off starter Hunter Reinke before Buchanan made it interesting with four runs in the top of the 7th.
The Bears responded by beating Oaks Christian 6-1 and El Dorado 4-2 for a fifth place finish. Senior Carson Olson earned the pitching win against Oaks Christian and sophomore Jake King recorded the save. In the fifth place game, sophomore Marcelo Saldana pitched six innings for the win with King closing that one out again.
Despite the loss, Buchanan head coach Tom Donald was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I thought we played well overall,” said Donald, whose team is still ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports after the tournament. “We faced some good competition and we feel like we turned a bit of a corner offensively as a team.
“It was a great test for our club and for the most part we handled it well. We are excited for the remainder of the games on our schedule and the road to Rawhide.”
Rawside Stadium in Visalia will be the site where the Central Section championship will be played on May 27.
Senior designated hitter Matt McGrady and sophomore outfielder Miguel Ortiz, the son of former Major League Baseball player and Oakland A’s second baseman Jose Ortiz, earned All-tournament honors.
“It was a great experience,” said McGrady who recently signed to play baseball at Fresno Pacific University next season. “Every single team in the tournament was very talented, so I am proud of how well our team performed. I feel like we represented the TRAC and Valley well.”
Clovis North (12-8) started off with a tough 2-1 loss to JSerra then beat Doral Academy from Florida 5-4 and Boulder Creek 11-4 before losing in the consolation championship to IMG Academy of Florida 7-5. IMG Academy claims it has sent 88 players to play Division I baseball since 2012.
Sophomore outfielder Brock Jones had a massive tournament, going 7-11 with five RBIs, six runs and two home runs against IMG Academy.
“We were just a few plays away from for sure being 3-1 and possibly 4-0,” said Broncos head coach Chris Patrick. “I was happy how we swung the bats. Brock had a great tourney and showed off his power and James Bell was also all-tourney and was steady.”
Patrick also noted that Nick Caviglia and Hector Munoz had a strong showing and as well as pitchers Brett Walker and Mikell Chavez.
Buchanan and Clovis North finish league play against each other on May 9 and 12.