Photo by Nick Baker – Buchanan ace Grant Gambrell, recently named a top 10 National Player of the Year candidate by maxpreps.com, is 7-0 on the mound and an 0.80 ERA with 27 RBIs and four home runs. Pictured here against Clovis High, Gambrell pitched a complete game in the Bears 2-1 victory on April 5.
By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
We are at the part of the baseball season where TRAC baseball teams get real familiar with each other.
In the second and third rounds of the grueling 15-game lead schedule the same schools play on Tuesday and Friday of each week, home and away after five single first-round games against each.
There are advantages and disadvantages to such a schedule, but the key has always been pitching in this format.
“Number one, it doesn’t allow teams to maneuver their rotation around so the ace can pitch against specific teams,” said Clovis North head coach Chris Patrick. “And number two, it forces the No. 2 pitcher to have to win games in order to be a league champion.”
For instance, Buchanan ace Grant Gambrell can only pitch against rival Clovis once during their two-game series. And in turn, so can Clovis ace Zac Whittaker. But in the first round of league on April 5 the two matched up, a mighty battle between two undefeated teams ranked No. 1 and No. 4 in the state at that time. The result was a 2-1 victory for the Bears where both pitchers threw complete games.
And after round one and the first week of the double-dips the standings broke down like this: Buchanan (6-1), Clovis North (5-2), Clovis (4-3), Central (3-4), Clovis West (2-5), Clovis East (2-5).
So what did that tell us? First of all, we have a balanced league. Second of all, yes, the undefeated and nationally ranked Buchanan team lost, but to an excellent Clovis North team.
For all the talk of Buchanan and Clovis and their lofty rankings before TRAC begin, there sat the Broncos and their 11-2-1 overall record entering league. After all, Clovis barely beat them 2-1 in the championship game of the Coca-Cola Classic.
And after beginning the year a perfect 18-0, Buchanan’s loss might not be all that bad in the grand scheme of the season.
“I think the loss to North was wake up call,” said Buchanan coach Tom Donald, whose team rose to the No. 4 ranked team in the nation by USA Today and is currently ranked No. 2 in the state by Maxpreps.com. “It caused us to refocus on our daily process of getting better every day. We did not deserve to win that game and [Clovis] North did.”
But wait – so who beat Clovis North? Proving how competitive TRAC baseball can be, the Broncos were downed by Clovis East 4-5 and Central 0-1. The Bears and Broncos clash on May 10 and 13, the last week of the regular season.
Welcome to the topsy-turvey world of TRAC baseball.
The double-dip match-ups:
Buchanan 8 Central 0: Grant Gambrell, who was recently named a top 10 player of the year candidate by maxpreps.com, was one out from a no-hitter and settled for a one-hit shutout, eight strikeouts and added a 2-run home run, his fourth of the season.
Buchanan 16 Central 4: The Bears scored seven runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back behind the pitching of Hunter Reinke (5IP, 4K) and three home runs by Quentin Selma, Chris Lopez and Blake Wells.
Clovis North 4 Clovis West 2: Michael Williams pitched five innings for the win and Noah Haupt provided a two-run single in the bottom of the third for a 3-2 lead. Blake Schafer belted a two-run single for the short-lived Golden Eagles lead.
Clovis North 5 Clovis West 1: Brett Walker pitched seven innings and allowed one earned run, five hits while striking out four. James Bell went 2-2 including an RBI single in the Broncos 3-run fifth inning that stretched the lead to 5-1.
Clovis 7 Clovis East 4: Clovis’ Zac Whittaker pitched 5 1/3 innings, striking out seven for the win. Chet Allison earned the save and Clayton Alexander went 3-3 including a home run. Jarred Aguilar went 2-4 with 2 RBIs for Clovis East.
Clovis 4 Clovis East 3: It took 13 innings in this one, as Mason Grotto singled home Jacob Fraser in the bottom half to lift the Cougars over the Timberwolves. Chet Allison pitched masterfully in relief throwing six innings of two-hit ball and striking out seven. Grotto collected five hits on the night.