Around the TRAC – Finding the story within the story in the Tri-River Athletic Conference

Clovis High won their third straight Fresno Easter Classic by defeating Edison 8-0 in the championship game. Chet Allison threw a complete game victory as the Cougars improved to 15-0 on the season at the time (they have since lost to Clovis North in league). (Photo by Nick Baker)

For me, the greatest underlining aspect to sports are the stories behind the stories – the young people who put in hours of work behind the scenes working on their craft, the coaches and their assistants who pour their heart and soul into their players, the parents who sacrifice their own needs for their kid’s endeavors. Sure, it’s fun to follow your favorite school, sport and athlete and read about their latest on-the-field adventure. It’s great to witness how fast someone runs or watch that special player dribble past three defenders for a layup. But behind every hurdle jumped and every defensive rebound gobbled up, there’s a story on how they got there, their own movie in the making. For every special team there’s a unique coach who puts in extra hours after practice or spends time mentoring a young person, sharing nuggets of wisdom helping them navigate through this thing called life.

You see, we often never know the behind-the-scenes struggle whether it’s a player or a coach. Sometimes we forget that we are all human. These are the stories that I love to read and write about.

The article I wrote on Tim Thiessen and his story after contracting West Nile virus for this issue of The Clovis Roundup is a personal one for me. First of all, I’ve known Tim since my senior year of high school at Immanuel in 1989, where we worked out a few times before spring baseball practice started. I can still hear his good-natured ribbing of “Hit the weight room!” every time I’d hit the warming track during batting practice. After he took over full-time coaching duties at Immanuel in 1991, my younger brother, Andy, played varsity baseball for him for three years, winning a Valley title in 1993.

Then I had the pleasure to be Tim’s assistant coach right out of college in 1995 and guess what? We won a Valley title that year too, the beginning of my coaching career and a year I’ll never forget. He taught me what it meant to be tough and how to get the best out of each player without breaking their spirit. I watched him deal with adversity with tactfulness and patience, something I still strive for this day. But most of all, he was the coach I aspired to be.

When I first heard Tim was seriously sick, my heart sank and I said a prayer. And as I’ve watched his own story unfold I see once again what it means to never give up, to dig deep within yourself to rise above your circumstance; the importantance of faith, family and friends and the will to live to see another day.

And as we celebrate everything sports and all the goodness that can come from it, remember that there’s always a story within a story, the journey we all take on this road called life.

Clovis softball wins Clovis Easter Classic, climbs to No. 11 in state

When the Clovis Easter Classic began it looked like a sure-fire Clovis versus Central match-up in the championship game. Well, the final materialized like we hoped and Clovis High came away with the championship by beating their TRAC rival 9-1, albeit with a little unexpected twist.

The anticipated pitching match-up between Clovis super-sophomore Danielle Lung and Central junior sensation Gianna Mancha didn’t occur most notably because Mancha was nursing an arm injury. So, to counteract this Coach Mike Noel elected to start Emily Puente in the circle instead of Lung.

It worked, in more ways than one.

First of all, Puente was outstanding in the game, striking out six, walking none and throwing a complete game. Second, she delivered a three-run double in the bottom of the third inning to give the Cougars (12-2) a 4-1 lead.

Left fielder Mackenzie Byrd added a two-run single in the fifth inning as the Cougars, ranked No. 11 in the state according to, tacked on five total runs for the 9-1 advantage, never looking back.

Lung, one of the top pitchers not only in the Central Section but in the state, is currently 11-2 on the season.

TRAC softball begins with a 10-game schedule starting on April 12.

Clovis baseball wins Fresno Easter Classic, climbs to No. 4 in state

Not to be outdone by their softball counterparts, Clovis High bested 38 teams during Spring Break to win the Fresno Easter Classic on March 23 by beating Edison 8-0 in the finals behind a complete game pitching performance from Chet Allison.

Clovis improved their record at the time to 15-0. They are currently 16-1 after losing to Clovis North on March 30.

Allison, in his first start of the season after being used primarily as a reliever struck out eight and allowed only one hit to the young Edison Tiger (7-8) team.

Cougar shortstop Jeremy Garcia recorded three hits and two RBIs to lead the Cougars to their third consecutive Classic title. Garcia was named tournament MVP after his stellar showing, which included going 8-13 with six RBIs and eight runs scored.

Four other TRAC schools participated in the 47-year tournament: Buchanan (4-0), Clovis North (3-1), Clovis East (3-1) and Central (1-3). Despite going a perfect 4-0 in the tournament, Buchanan was denied making it to the championship game after losing out in the second tie-breaker.

Actually five schools ended the tournament with perfect records, followed by fewest runs allowed. Clovis only gave up seven, with three schools—Reedley, Edison and Buchanan—tying with allowing nine. The second tie-breaker was fewest offensive strikeouts which took out the Bears with 25.

Buchanan pitcher Grant Gambrell was named one of the tournament’s most outstanding pitchers after he pitched six hitless innings in a 5-1 victory over Hanford.

Clovis North beats nation’s No. 6 ranked Clovis, then lose to Clovis East

Think sports can be topsy-turvy? One of the great aspects of baseball is the fact that any team can beat anyone on any given day (or night). Case in point: TRAC baseball.

Despite the lofty state and national rankings, the fact that Clovis North beat Clovis High 3-2 on March 30 in the second game of the TRAC shouldn’t be considered too much of an upset.

The Broncos came in with a 13-2-1 record and narrowly lost to the Cougars 2-1 in the Coca-Cola Classic championship game on March 4.

Despite getting outhit five to three in the game, Clovis North relied on the pitching performance of senior Brett Walker, who pitched a complete game striking out only two and walking three.

After the Cougars took a 1-0 lead, the Broncos took control in the third inning that saw three runs cross the plate on a two-run single by James Bell and an RBI triple by Noah Haupt.

Clovis scored one run in the sixth on an RBI single by Johnny Wiltfang.

Zac Whittaker, one of the top TRAC pitchers, was the game’s losing pitcher. The senior pitched five innings, walked four, struck out eight, and allowed three runs.

Then on April 1, Clovis East came back to stun Clovis North 5-4 by scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, then scoring a run in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Christian Foster’s double to deep center field provided the game winner for the Timberwolves.

Buchanan boys volleyball off to blistering start to season

In case you were wondering, the defending D-1 champion Buchanan boys volleyball team is picking up right where they left off last season – by dominating the competition.

They participated in the Las Vegas Easter Invitational from March 21-23 and took care of business by winning all five matches in straight sets. Yes, they didn’t lose a game sweeping the competition 10-0. The Bears improved to 13-1 on the season heading into TRAC play.

Nik Gettman, Austin Gilbert, Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Merchen were named to the all-tournament team.