2022 Baseball Season Preview: Who’s the Best in TRAC, Players to Watch, and More

There is no dispute about which baseball team stands atop the Tri-River Athletic Conference.

Not enough has changed between Clovis West, Central, Clovis High, Clovis North, and Clovis East to unseat the defending Central Section Division-I champions.

Buchanan is No. 1 in the preseason Clovis Roundup TRAC baseball rankings. The Bears wasted no time getting a head start on the competition. Before a majority of the league started their season on February 25 (Clovis East opens on March 1), Buchanan was already 4-0 with a pair of wins over West Ranch-Valencia and Liberty-Bakersfield. 

Here is the rest of the TRAC:

Clovis Roundup PRESEASON TRAC BASEBALL RANKINGS:

Buchanan

Clovis West

Central

Clovis North

Clovis

Clovis East

To preview the baseball season, here are superlatives for infield, outfield, pitching, and everything in between.

Best behind the plate:

C Dallan Alles, Central

Honorable mentions: Derrick Cruz, Clovis North; Garrett Garfield, Clovis

All-league Buchanan catcher Austin Young graduated as the best backstop in the TRAC in 2021. Alles takes that mantle this season. The junior hit .352 and drove in 19 RBIs last year, the most of any returning Central player.

Central is situated nicely with Clovis West transfer Logan Pontecorvo available for catching duties one night a week.

Cruz and Garfield are experienced seniors that will serve different roles for their respective ball clubs. Cruz will work with the Clovis North pitching staff, which has lost multiple starters, and Garfield will catch a young staff at Clovis High. Both guys are undisputed leaders on the diamond.

Best corner infield duo:

1B Cayden Munster and 3B Kaleb Latimer, Clovis West

Honorable mention: 1B Max Bernal and 3B Drew Smith, Buchanan

Munster is a monster at the plate. Only a junior, the 6-4, 230-pound slugger stands out on the field with his size alone, and his bat could lead the TRAC in home runs. He’s already committed to Fresno State. Latimer hit three home runs last season too and will provide power at the top of the batting order.

This was the closest category of the bunch, because Bernal and Smith are elite hitters and headed to Division-I colleges. As far as corner infields go, Buchanan and Clovis West are two of the best in the Central Section. 

Best middle infield duo:

2B Jett Ruby and SS JP Acosta, Buchanan

Honorable mention: 2B Marc Anthony Carroll and SS Jacob Haros, Clovis West

Ruby and Acosta are returning starters from last year’s Section championship team. Expect a lot of double plays from the duo and more production at the plate. Acosta drove in 20 RBIs and batted .358 at the plate; Ruby had 22 RBIs and .441 on-base percentage in 2021.

The gloves on Carroll and Haros at Clovis West deserve recognition.

Best outfield:

Justin Inchaurregui, Hunter Jansen, Evan Wallace, and Rocky Reyes, Buchanan

Honorable mention: Jordan Johnson, Dayton Tafoya, Andre Jones, and Michael Klein, Central

Jansen started the last two games in the outfield for Buchanan after serving as designated hitter on Opening Day. He is off to a hot start – two home runs and five RBI in four games. Buchanan had the best outfield last season too, and Jansen’s arrival eased the departures of Josh Williams and Sky Collins. UC Irvine signee Evan Wallace also plays a solid center field and swings a consistent bat.

The Grizzlies’ outfield will have lots of speed, and that gives Central one of the best defensive outfields in the area.

Best pitching staff:

Buchanan

Honorable mentions: Clovis West and Central

There isn’t a bad pitching staff in the TRAC. Each team has an ace pitcher who can go toe-to-toe with an opposing lineup and give their guys a chance to win any given night. It’s just that Buchanan senior Sam Tookoian, who is headed to Ole Miss after the season, possesses one of the best one-two punches in the league. Tookoian’s fastball is in the lower 90 MPH range with movement when it’s on, and the 6-5, 225-pound fireballer can mix speeds with his curveball.

The Bears are not front-heavy on the staff, either. Austin Watson, Jayden Mandal, and Colton O’Toole bring back varsity innings from last year.

Clovis West senior and Fresno State signee Nathan Baeza is one of the best two-way players in the TRAC. There are not many in the Central Section that can replicate his consistency on the mound and performance at the plate. Baeza is an RBI machine and will serve as the staff’s ace. Sophomore Tyler Patrick figures to be the No. 2 pitcher behind Baeza in the rotation and a regular in the batting order. Clovis North transfer Kyle Jimenez joins the Clovis West staff as well. 

At Central, St. Mary’s signee Ryan Spalliero has the filthiest three-pitch sequence in the TRAC. Whereas Tookoian combines a 90 MPH fastball with a curveball, Spalliero throws both pitches along with a change-up that breaks away from left-handed batters. He’s in the running with Tookoian for best pitcher in the Central Section. Aaron McCurley will miss the start of the season due to injury, but he will be nails for the Grizzlies upon his return.

Biggest breakout potential:

Cole Fellows, Clovis North

Signed with Columbia University in New York, Fellows added a lot of muscle over the offseason. Part of the transformation came from Fellows crushing the team’s Iron Man challenge; he is the only Bronco to ever get a perfect score, meaning he excelled at each required weight training exercise. Fellows retained his foot speed that will transition him from infielder to center fielder this spring. Head coach Jeff Prieto said the lefty is also looking better at the plate, hitting opposite-field line drives after getting pull-happy toward the end of last year.

Underclassmen to watch:

Micah Raygoza, freshman, Clovis West

Head coach Kevin Patrick is high on Raygoza, a catcher who can help share the workload behind the plate with two-way player Tyler Patrick.

Peyton Barsotti, freshman, Buchanan

Another freshman catcher in the TRAC, Barsotti already made his high school debut. A loud one, too – Barsotti homered on Opening Day for the Bears. If the last name sounds familiar, that might be because Peyton’s dad, Mark, threw for over 8,000 yards as a quarterback at Fresno State.

Jack West, freshman, Clovis North

West will start at third base for the Broncos. He immediately earned the respect of his teammates and coaches over the offseason. Prieto said he believes West could hit five home runs as a freshman.

Tyler Patrick, sophomore, Clovis West

Patrick finished his freshman year strong; he is a prime candidate for a breakout season.

Jayden Hertel, sophomore, Clovis North

Hertel played his way into the lineup after starting his freshman season on the bubble between varsity and junior varsity. Hertel ended the season batting .340. He returns as shortstop and starter in the rotation.

Under the radar:

Eli Henderson, Clovis

Henderson is the difference-maker on a Clovis High baseball team that returns multiple pieces from last year. He forms a solid middle infield with sophomore shortstop Marcel Leal, and as a junior, Henderson is one of the team captains on a young Clovis team.

Jacob Crain, Clovis East

Crain is committed to San Francisco State and will be used by head coach Ryan Smith in a variety of pitching roles. Crain works with a fastball sitting in the high 80 MPH range, curveball, changeup, and cutter. Smith said Crain’s arm is too valuable to not have him start on the hill, but he envisions Crain closing games as well. The senior will start in center field on days off.

Mason Martino, Clovis East

How about another Timberwolf? Martino will start in the outfield for Clovis East, and coaches and teammates raved about his all-around game, from fielding and baserunning to hitting. 

Evan Nelson, Clovis

Nelson contributed on the pitching staff for Clovis High last season and is one of four juniors that will serve as Clovis High’s projected starting rotation, joining Ryan Napier, Ian Barnett, and Nicholas Morrelli.

All-Roundup Watchlist:

  • JP Acosta, Buchanan
  • Dallan Alles, Central
  • Nathan Baeza, Clovis West
  • Josh Barajas, Central
  • Max Bernal, Buchanan
  • Jaden Carrillo, Clovis
  • Jacob Crain, Clovis East
  • Derrick Cruz, Clovis North
  • Collin DeBorde, Clovis North
  • Cole Fellows, Clovis North
  • Garrett Garfield, Clovis
  • Jacob Haros, Clovis West
  • Eli Henderson, Clovis
  • Jayden Hertel, Clovis North
  • Hunter Jansen, Buchanan
  • Kyle Jimenez, Clovis West
  • Michael Klein, Central
  • Kaleb Latimer, Clovis West
  • Jayden Mandal, Buchanan
  • Paul Martinez, Clovis East
  • Mason Martino, Clovis East
  • Aaron McCurley, Central
  • Cayden Munster, Clovis West
  • Evan Nelson, Clovis
  • Colton O’Toole, Buchanan
  • Tyler Patrick, Clovis West
  • Cooper Pommenville, Clovis North
  • Jett Ruby, Buchanan
  • Drew Smith, Buchanan
  • Ryan Spalliero, Central
  • Sam Tookoian, Buchanan
  • Evan Wallace, Buchanan
  • Austin Watson, Buchanan
Gabriel Camarillo has written for the Clovis Roundup since August 2019 and follows high school athletics, Fresno State football and former Clovis Unified student-athletes. Gabe also writes for The Collegian as a staff sports writer and works at One Putt Broadcasting as a board op for 940 ESPN radio.