By Paul Meadors
City beats County in baseball game held at Chukchansi Park
If Clovis baseball player Dakota Stilson learned one thing from playing in the City/County All-Star game it was the guys in the other dugout he competed against for the past four years are just like him – the only difference was they wore a different color jersey and name across their chest.
“I always thought they didn’t like us and didn’t like me, but when I got here they were all cool,” said Stilson who started at catcher for the City All-Stars. “We all had a great time together.”
And his teammates liked him a lot more after he lined a 2-run bases loaded double in the first inning to give the City a 3-0 lead in the first inning they would not relinquish off Madera pitcher Alec Gamboa, one of the top pitchers in the Central Section—the one attending Fresno State on scholarship.
“I’m used to playing against these guys who have been my opponents and it was nice getting that hit and hearing them all cheer for me,” added Stilson gesturing towards the dugout.
And one of those opponents-turned-teammates was Buchanan third-baseman Ross Dodds, who Stilson battled against in the last two Valley championship games; Clovis winning last year and Buchanan taking the 2015 title.
“It was a great experience playing with the kids you’ve gone against these past four years,” said Dodds who will be donning a Fresno State Bulldog hat next year. “We were all having a good time playing our last high school game together but in the end we’re all the same and playing the game we love.”
The City would hold on for a 5-3 victory in the 49th annual game held at Chukchansi Park on June 14. Fellow Clovis teammate Tevin Mitchell, a slick fielding shortstop who is attending UC Santa Barbara also added an RBI double in the second inning.
In all, nine pitchers combined on a 3-hitter for the City including TRAC hurlers Jordon Yoshida from Clovis West and DJ Martinez for Buchanan.
City coach Tom Donald, his fourth year coaching the City, saw too, the camaraderie that brings together players in an all-star game setting.
“The boys mixed it up,” said Donald. “There were no cliques and they all hung out with each other and had a great time.”
“We told them to get to know some guys so you can get to watch them further their career and say ‘I got to play in an all-star game with that guy,’” said Donald.
And for Donald the game was an exclamation point to a season that saw his Bears go 29-4, win a D-1 Valley title and finish ranked No. 3 in the state. But it also was an end of an era, as seven departing seniors from the game signaled the last time he’ll coach them on the field. He was seen hugging his players as they exited the dugout.
“It’s the last time you get to coach your own guys. They mean so much to me because they’re much more than just baseball players,” said Donald. “I’ve watched them develop into great young men.”
Despite softball loss, Clovis and friends savor the moment
If the entire season for the Clovis softball team was a hot-fudge sundae then sending five players to represent the City in the City/County all-star game was the cherry on top. And that sundae wasn’t the little version you get at Costco but the massive gigantic one they used to serve at Ferrell’s Ice Cream back in the day.
Even though the City girls lost 9-6 in the annual game played on June 17, a couple of D-1 Valley champs from Clovis came away with some impressive hardware after the post-game ceremony. Lyndsay Hathaway took away team MVP after smashing an RBI double in the first and Cameryn Reichle was voted the Jenny Eller Most Inspirational Award.
The Jenny Eller Most Inspirational Award is named for Jenny Eller, the Bullard softball player who was diagnosed leukemia her senior year in 1992 when she was weighing her scholarship offers. She passed away four years later, fighting to the very end and leaving a legacy that lives on today.
“This is absolutely the best award I’ve ever received,” said Reichle who is staying close to home and playing for the Fresno State Bulldogs. “She’s the definition of inspirational and it’s incredible that my teammates even looked at me this way. I’m humbled.”
And for Lyndsay Hathaway, a season of personal ups and downs couldn’t hide her infectious smile after the game after receiving the MVP award.
“I was flabbergasted,” said the outfielder Hathaway. “It was an honor and I feel very blessed.”
And for all five of the Cougars, many who grew up playing together since the sixth grade, it was emotional knowing this was the last time they took the field together donning the Clovis uniform. Hathaway stated it was a very special moment wearing the Blue and Gold for the last time and Reichle flashed a big smile reminiscing about her four years playing for coach Mike Noel and the Cougars.
Clovis Roundup Female Athlete of the Year Cayla Broussard also represented Clovis with teammates Kristina Ortiz and Mackenzie Emmett, Clovis West’s Alyssa DeLaCruz, Kayla Lock, Sidney Rigby and Buchanan’s Keely Bowlan and Katie Tablada.
City football rolls County behind TRAC quarterback stars
Clovis North senior Austin Autry opened up his City/County record book at the annual dinner before the game and saw a familiar name in the record book. There was his dad, Carlos Brown, listed as holding the passing records for most attempts and completions in the game with 33 and 28 respectively. You may also know him as former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry.
The 1970 graduate of Riverdale High School, University of Pacific and one time Green Bay Packer jumped into a life of showbiz and politics after football and he was a decent little quarterback back in the day, just like his son.
Austin followed in his father’s footsteps as the quarterback of the Broncos, leading them to a perfect 5-0 TRAC record. Just like the many athletes who play in the City/County games, it can be a tough pill to swallow knowing it’s the last time they take the field in high school.
“It’s a bitter sweet feeling. I have enjoyed every second of my high school career and I am going to miss it,” said Autry who is attending Fresno City College to play football. “But at the same time I’m looking forward to the future and what God has in store me.”
And pops was often seen on the sidelines during games, keeping his distance but always encouraging from afar. Autry says: “My dad’s the reason why I started playing football. From having me do drop backs when I was four year old to breaking down film my senior year. He’s always been there.”
While Autry didn’t have an opportunity to break dad’s records and only completed one pass, his fellow TRAC quarterbacks, Kordel Hoffman of Clovis West and Evan Geiger of Clovis, took charge and led the City to a 35-7 trouncing of the County. Hoffman, a dual threat QB, threw a 23-yard TD to Buchanan’s Marcus Cummins and ran for a 38-yard score and Geiger threw for two scores in the second half.
City sweeps County in boys’ and girls’ basketball behind Clovis West combos
Landynn Munster never concerned herself with stats. As the only starting senior on the Division 1 Central Section champion Clovis West basketball team the savvy and hard-nosed point guard only cared about the “W.” Heck, if she scored zero points but deflected five passes, took a charge, and had three assists it was all good if her and her Eagle teammates could call scoreboard at the end of the game.
The City/County game proved her value once again but this time it was her turn to stand in the spotlight – albeit with a dash of reluctancy.
After scoring a 12 points in leading the City all-stars to a 74-63 hard-fought victory, Munster was averse if not a downright bashful recipient of the game’s MVP award.
“I’m humbled and surprised,” said Munster soon off to Fresno Pacific College. “I knew I had to match my teammates play because there were a lot of good players making good plays.”
And despite the City’s pedigree – winners of ten of the last 11 – Munster knew the County wouldn’t go down without a fight.
After falling behind 11-14 Munster converted two layups and a free throw to help her City team jump to a 19-14 they would never relinquish.
“We didn’t underestimate them at all,” said Munster. “I knew it was going to be a good game.”
And after the game and congratulatory hugs from friends and family she high-five two impressionable young girls, aged eight and ten, who stood starring admiring the still dripping-with-sweat Munster, the embodiment of putting we-before-me.
(Author’s note: those two starred-eyed girls were his own daughters).
The Golden Eagle flavor continued in the boys’ game as Clovis West coach Tom Orlich, in his second go-around coaching the City, led the City squad to an 88-78 victory in front of 1,500 at Buchanan’s gym.
But this one was special – it was the last time he would coach his son, Michael, after a stellar career that ended with co-TRAC MVP honors and a TRAC regular season title.
And it was a shot late in the game, one surely the son of a coach and gym rat practiced thousands of times, that turned a two point lead into a four point lead with just under two minutes to go that sealed the deal for the City.
“My defender was a bit too hard so I crossed over to my left,” said Michael attending Cal Lutheran University in the fall. “I pulled up for a nice practice shot and told myself to not think about it and just shoot it.”
Ironically that was his only basket of the game and made the score 82-78, putting away a County team that Michael and father both admired for their toughness.
But the final game for any outgoing senior is a time of reflection, especially for a player who’s father has been by his side every step of the way.
And sitting on the bench, exhausted from playing an intense All-star game, Michael said playing in his last game in high school hasn’t sunk in yet – at least not yet until he leaves for college. But dad, wise with counsel from his 815 career wins, knows nostalgia when he sees it and enjoyed every last moment of the game.
“It was fun to be out with him one more time,” said Orlich. “I think he really enjoyed the whole experience.”