American Legion Post 147 Clovis ‘NightHawks’ Advance to State Tournament

The NightHawks and the Yams stand awaiting the start of their game. They played a three game set at Chuckchansi Park July 11-12th. (Photo JT Gomez)

No scoreboard, no sound, just the field and a ball, that’s all that was needed.

While the games were played at Chukchansi Park in downtown Fresno, it very well may have been played at any old sandlot in terms of presentation.

But with American Legion Baseball, that is all that is needed according to Clovis NightHawks Post 147 Team Manager Rollo Adams. With players from the likes of Buchanan and Clovis West, plenty of Clovis was represented through the team.

In game one which took place on Monday evening with a 7 o’clock first pitch, the Clovis based team was helped out early on by walks and wild pitches. On one instance alone, two runs scored and with that 2-0 lead, the NightHawks never looked back.

They then proceeded to take a 6-0 lead in the 2nd inning after three consecutive runs were batted by singles. But this is where the offense ended on the night for the NightHawks, as stellar pitching held their opponent, the Atwater/Merced Yams to only three runs. In winning the nightcap by a score of 6-3, they only had to win one game of a possible double header the next day.

Rollo Adams summarized his team’s performance, “We knew it wouldn’t be easy, I mean we came out like gangbusters…We got the lead and then we started coasting on in.”

That wouldn’t be the same story for their first game of a what would be double-header the next morning.

In game two of the short three game set, a game that would advance the NightHawks to the next round of the American Legion Tournament, the team did manage a first inning run off of a bases loaded walk. However, once the Yams got their feet in the batter’s box, they decided to have productive at-bats all game. In the bottom of the 2nd, after a few foul balls, a two-run single gave the Yams a 2-1 advantage.

The next closest threat came in the bottom of the 5th, when the NightHawks thwarted the Yams and their leadoff single by way of a 4-6-3 double play. The NightHawks offensive struggles in game two was made prevalent in the top of the 6th inning when after a leadoff walk and subsequent steal of second base and advance to third on the throw with no outs, the following three hitters in the lineup were unable to cash in on the tying run.

However, in the top of the 7th inning, down to their last out, the NightHawks were able to crush a ball past the Yams’ centerfielder for an easy stand up double. Pushing the envelope with two outs, and flirting with a cardinal sin of baseball (not to mention the end of the game), the NightHawks’ batter decided to head for third, when uncharacteristically at least of this game, a critical error was made when the relay throw was thrown into the NightHawks’ dugout, allowing the tying run to score.

The game would last for another two innings when in the top of the ninth, the NightHawks plated the go-ahead run with a “Texas Leaguer” just in front of the Yams’ right fielder.

With all the momentum on the Clovis side of the field, the Yams came up in the bottom of the ninth with their “ghost runner” on second base. After a productive first out, a ground ball to second base that allowed the runner to advance to third, the hardest hit ball of the day was awarded to the Yams’ first baseman, after cranking a double past NightHawks outfielders in left-centerfield tying the game at three a piece. After a passed ball, a lined drive single up the middle won the game for the Yams, walking it off, and extending their hopes of advancing just a bit longer with a score of 4-3.

Game three, the final game of the set came thirty minutes after game two, a 12:45 P.M. first pitch. And for as much as the players may or may not have felt the heat of competition, fans, spectators, and family members certainly felt the heat of the day start to creep up on them, everyone retreating to a shady spot in the brightly lit Chukchansi Park.

After a quick discussion on pitch count from team manager Rollo Adams, the game was allowed to resume under protest from the NightHawks. The pitching would prove to not matter in this one though, as offense scored more runs for both teams than in both games prior.

The scoring parade began in the top of the second via a Yams error. The floodgates it would so seem began to open in that inning, as the NightHawks scored four, taking what would have been a commanding 4-0 lead in either of their previous matchups.

But the Yams would not go quietly, as they scored four of their own in the bottom half of the second inning. After this exciting back and forth, the game seemed to have the same insinuation of stalling in terms of offensive production, until the bottom of the fourth inning when the NightHawks coaching staff decided to load the bases rather than pitch to a Yams batter. The decision would not pan out in favor of the NightHawks, as the next batter promptly singled into centerfield, scoring two Yams runners and giving the Atwater team a 6-4 lead.

The NightHawks would return fire in a way, as in the top half of the fifth inning, they tied the game on a 2 rbi single. The first pitch from a new pitcher for the Yams was then dumped into centerfield giving the NightHawks a 7-6 lead. The Clovis battle tested team would then chase this substitute from the game after a two run triple gave them a 9-6 lead in the fifth. Even after a third hurler came into the same inning to stop the bleeding, the NightHawks continued their onslaught, plating another run on a ball hit clean through the pocket between the first baseman and second baseman, a term commonly referred to as the 3-4 hole.

The Yams would answer with runs of their own in the 5th, and 7th innings, but after three runs also scored by the NightHawks in the top of the 6th, it would prove too much for the Yams to handle, as they lost the game by a 13-8 margin.

“They’re scrappy over there, we knew it wouldn’t be easy.”

The NightHawks, after winning this first tournament, have qualified for the State Tournament that will be held at Fresno State’s Pete Bieden Field at Bob Bennett Stadium beginning the 22nd of July. There you can see all of the players and their talents behind this wonderfully crafted Clovis based team.

JT is a recent college grad with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He is mainly interested in sports and entertainment but covers a wide array of subjects. He currently writes for the Fresno State Baseball Dugout Club. JT looks forward to continuing his career at the Clovis Roundup and is excited to be working closely with a community that is very proud of its people.