By Johnny Martin, Reporter
It wasn’t the outcome that Clovis, Clovis West and Clovis East had in mind at the 48th Annual Fresno Easter Classic, but it helped the trio gain some valuable experience before the rugged play of the Tri-River Athletic Conference heats back up.
The Fresno Easter Classic is one of the largest tournaments in the state and was played over spring break, bringing 34 teams, including 13 non-Central Section teams, to the Fresno area.
The Sultans of Santana High School from San Diego were this year’s winners, defeating Pleasant Grove 3-1 in the championship game played at Clovis West’s Stan Bledsoe Field. The Sultans are the first non-Central Section team to win the tournament since Beyer High School of Modesto won it back in 1990.
The Sultans went 4-0 in the tournament to reach the championship, outscoring opponents 36-2 along the way, including an 11-0 win over a 19-0 Redwood on the final day to reach the championship. Santana also had a 7-0 victory over Clovis on Day 1 of the tournament.
The Cougars were looking for a four-peat as tournament champions, but a rough seventh inning where they allowed all seven runs to Santana was enough to doom Clovis. The Cougars finished the tournament 3-1, but with such a large field and five teams finishing the tournament 4-0, the Day 1 loss was difficult to overcome.
Clovis West and Clovis East were the two other Clovis schools to participate in this year’s tournament as Buchanan and Clovis North participated in the National Baseball Classic down south. The Golden Eagles finished the tournament 2-2 with two notable wins against Jesuit and Bradshaw Christian. They lost their two games to the then undefeated Redwood Rangers and San Joaquin Memorial by a combined five runs.
The Timberwolves were not able to find much luck in the tournament as they finished 1-3 over the three days. Their lone win came on Day 2 against Sheldon High School, 3-1. The Timberwolves lost their three games by a combined four runs and were a key break away from going 3-1 if not 4-0 in the tournament.
Clovis East, however, recognized a familiar face in the championship game as former head coach Rigo Ledezma was at the helm of the Sultans. Ledezma spent four years as an assistant at Clovis East before he became the head coach in 2009 and would hold that position for five seasons before he made the move down south to support his wife.
“The reason we came is because we knew we were going to play good teams, we knew the facilities were great and this is always a great tournament,” Ledezma said. “It feels good for our kids, they’ve been working hard. We had a ton of quality at-bats, our pitchers threw really well giving up only three runs in five games against really good teams.”
Santana had two players recognized with individual awards at the end of the tournament. Aiden Rasmussen was honored as one of three players to receive MVP for the tournament. He finished the tournament with a .688 batting average with 11 hits in 16 at-bats including two doubles, four RBI and six runs scored. Noah Nunez was recognized as one of two pitchers to receive Outstanding Pitcher of the tournament. Nunez had a complete game shutout victory over the Cougars that played large in his team reaching the finals and him receiving the award.
Cougars’ Chet Allison was also recognized with an individual award. Allison, just like Rasmussen, was one of three players to receive MVP of the tournament. He finished a .500 batting average with six hits in 12 at-bats including four doubles, a triple, and two runs scored. He also had one win in seven innings pitched over the four games with four strikeouts and only four hits allowed.
The Clovis schools will return from spring break and resume TRAC play on Wednesday, April 19. The Cougars will host Clovis North while the Timberwolves will host the Bears of Buchanan, both games starting at 6:30. The Golden Eagles will travel to Central to take on the Grizzlies at 3:45.