Clovis West, Buchanan baseball rise to top
Recently, the Tri-River Athletic Conference was rated the ninth best high school baseball conference in the nation by MaxPreps.
Who’s No. 1 you might ask? That would be the Trinity League in Southern California, the league where all six schools are private with the likes of Mater Dei and St. John Bosco.
While No. 9 is quite an honor for the TRAC, those in the know are well aware of just how competitive the league can be. From top to bottom, anyone beat everyone at anytime, evidenced by tight scores and intense battles throughout the the first 11 games.
In addition, a baseball team from the TRAC has been in the D-I Valley title game every year since 2001, winning 13.
“The league competition is always really tight and any team has a chance to win no matter who is playing who,” said Clovis West senior Kohl Simas, who on the season is hitting .402 with four home runs, 27 RBI and a 7-2 record on the mound. “I think that’s what makes it one of the best leagues in California and the Nation.”
True to form, Clovis West (21-5, 8-3) battled Clovis East (15-9, 5-6) tooth and nail for two games the week of April 23-27, needing a three-run double from Jack Winn in the bottom of the sixth to win the first matchup 4-3, the rally starting with two outs and nobody on.
In the Friday game, Nick Castro and Dusty Schramm combined for seven strong innings on the mound and beat Timberwolves pitcher Jared Aguilar, who Clovis West coach Kevin Patrick calls, “arguably the best pitcher in the Valley.” Castro helped his cause with a home run in the 5-3 win.
Joining Clovis West at the top of the standings is Buchanan, certainly no stranger to championships and the three-time defending TRAC champion. The Bears have been in the last four championship games, winning in 2015 and 2016. Clovis won in 2014 and 2017.
However, Buchanan (16-6-1) had all it could handle against winless Central (10-13, 0-11), coming away with 1-0 and 3-2 wins. Jake Renteria’s second inning single and TJ Fondtain’s complete game proved the difference in Game 1 while Brady Hormel and Brock Jones hit solo home runs in the second matchup.
While Buchanan has struggled to find consistent pitching all season, Clovis West, ranked No. 17 by Cal-Hi Sports, is set up nicely for the rest of the season and is led by Castro (8-2, 1.45 ERA), Schramm (6 saves, 43 Ks in 34 inn) and TRAC MVP frontrunner Simas. That senior trio gives the Golden Eagles as good as a chance as anyone to win the TRAC and their first D-I Valley title since 2004.
“It’s a really tight knit group, most of us have been playing together since we were 10 years old,” Simas said about this year’s team. “Everyone has each other’s back and we really pull for each other out there.”
The formula of starting Castro on Tuesday and Simas on Friday with Schramm ready to relieve has worked to perfection. In addition to being 21-5 on the season, Clovis West sports a collective ERA of 1.57.
“They all have good stuff but the most impressive thing is they all pound the strike zone,” Patrick said. “And we’ve played good defense behind them.”
Schramm, who’s been clocked in the low 90s this season, recently accepted a scholarship offer to the University of Utah after initially deciding to play football at Utah State.
In the end, Clovis West will have to get past both Clovis North (20-6, 7-4) and rival Clovis (14-11, 5-6) twice to finish off league. Standing in their way are Broncos starters Mikel Chavez and Riley Cooper and the Cougars’ Blake Sodersten, who has thrown two no-hitters this season.
Clovis North’s Hein named state Sophomore Player of the Year
The Clovis North girls basketball team had an excellent season, placing second in the D-I Central Section, earning a bid in the CIF Open Division and finishing No. 11 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports with a 26-6 record.
The 2017-18 Broncos were young with only one senior starter in Jordyn Brown and were led by sophomores Savannah Tucker and Rowan Hein. Cal-Hi Sports named Hein as its Sophomore Player of the Year.
“It’s an unbelievable honor and it’s a tribute to the team to be in that position,” Clovis North coach Heather Long said. “Both her and Savannah were right there, it’s pretty neat to have two kids that are considered for this award.”
Hein averaged 15.5 points and 4.8 assists a game for the Broncos and has a special skill set for a player that stands 5-foot-10.
When asked about what she brought to the court every night, Long responded: “Her poise, her ability to see the floor, the ability to know what to do during important parts of the game. She has a very high basketball IQ. She can do a lot.”
Basketball in the Central Section is certainly making a name for itself, especially with the Clovis West girls winning the CIF Open Division last year and finishing No. 1 in the nation. Three of Clovis North’s losses this season were to the Golden Eagles, including 63-49 in the Valley title game.
On the boys side, Clovis West’s Cole Anderson was named to the all-freshman, 12-player squad. Anderson was named the TRAC’s co-MVP and averaged 17 points per game. San Joaquin Memorial standout Jaylen Green was named Cal-Hi Sports Sophomore of the Year after leading the Panthers to the D-II Valley title, averaging nearly 28 points per game. Green is rated the No. 1 sophomore in the nation by multiple publications.
Buchanan boys volleyball looking sharp
There’s no replacement for experience, and the Buchanan boys volleyball team certainly has plenty to spare.
The Bears have separated themselves from the pack, sporting a 7-1 league record after dismantling Central 25-17, 25-17, 25-13 on senior night on April 26, a fitting tribute to a core group of four who have played together since 7th grade in Spencer Heimerdinger, Rece Constable, Braden Clark and Kyle Merchen.
“It’s the sort of connection were they can just look at me and I know what they mean or what set they want,” Bears two-time All-TRAC setter Kyle Merchen said. “This year I’m a lucky setter, I have such a good connection with all my hitters.They know what I’m going to set them before I actually set the ball.”
Two such hitters are Heimerdinger (194 kills) and Clark (176 kills).
“They know each other so well, they communicate with each other without saying anything,” Buchanan coach John Jay said about the group of seniors.
This link has helped the Bears to a 22-7 overall record, with six of their losses in tough out-of-section tournaments where they play some of the top teams in Southern California.
“The high level tournaments we go to down south benefit our team so much because the teams play so much faster and they are more competitive,” Merchen said. “After we play those SoCal teams and transition back to the teams in the Valley, we are much smoother and more technically sound.”
Jay also notes that freshman libero Donovan Constable is playing extremely well as is senior Caleb Michaels (113 kills).
“The guys we got have played together for a long time and they sense the time is running out,” Jay said. “They know it’s time to get after it.”
As of April 30 Clovis, Clovis East and Clovis North are in a three-way tie for second at 5-3. Playoffs begin May 10 and the Valley championship game is scheduled for May 18.
Clovis North boys tennis sweep TRAC titles
The Clovis North boys tennis program has built a nice little dynasty the past three years with three straight TRAC team titles and back-to-back D-I Valley titles. The boys are looking strong to add another this year as the Broncos won their third straight TRAC title and swept the singles and doubles titles.
Clovis North won the TRAC team title with a victory over Buchanan on April 24, ending league with a perfect 10-0 record. Michael Fourchy, Billy Schulz, Drew Quall and Derek Yao all went undefeated in the TRAC.
Broncos coach Bryan Juinio praised the four for their work ethic and desire to be the best. He says: “The team is bolstered by some young guys who look to continue our recent tradition of success.”
The program came to prominence under 2017 grad Daly Meinert who won three Valley singles titles and is now at Cal Poly.
On April 27, Fourchy won the singles title and Schulz and Quall brought home the doubles title.
Juinio noted that juniors Schulz, Derek Yao, Nick Rouillard, and Ethan Cardot are unbeaten in league play the past five seasons with a 46-match win streak. They were champs in 7th grade (8-0), 8th grade (8-0), TRAC champs as freshman, sophomores and now juniors, going 30-0 over those seasons.
The CIF team playoffs begin May 3 and the individuals May 11.
“The ultimate goal is to win a CIF title,” Juinio added. “There are only 10 CIF sections in the state, and being a champion in the section and one of the best teams in the state is a humbling experience.”