Check this out: Two of the best in the state, Buchanan and Clovis, are a combined 45-5-1 on the season. The Bears are ranked No. 1 and the Cougars are No. 8 according to Cal-Hi Sports.
That’s some darn good baseball for sure. And the two Central Section powerhouses sit atop the TRAC at 10-1 just before their colossal two-game series starting on May 2. Buchanan has handed Clovis two of its three losses on the year.
Clovis was helped out after Clovis West beat Buchanan 2-1 behind the stellar pitching of senior Nick Falco on April 25. But, the Bears hunkered down, and the next two days in practice they decided to cling on to that age ol’ credo – grip it and rip it.
The Bears (23-2, 10-1) did just that when they matched up again with the Golden Eagles three days later behind three home runs and 11 hits, holding on to beat Clovis West 11-8 on a windy Friday night at Buchanan Stadium on April 28.
“We were a little passive [in the 2-1 loss] and in Thursday’s batting practice I wanted them to air it out,” said Buchanan head coach Tom Donald. “It led to a different mindset. I had to remind them to not be afraid to swing and miss. I thought the kids did a really good job of that tonight.”
You bet they did, behind the blasts of two sophomores in J.D. Ortiz and T.J. Fondtain and senior three-year starting catcher Zach Presno.
Ortiz, a left-handed hitting outfielder, hit his first homer of his career in the second inning and Presno’s shot down the line went halfway up the pine tree firmly planted just beyond the fence in the fourth and made the score 8-1.
J.D., one of three sons on Buchanan’s roster of former MLB player Jose Ortiz, recently called up from the JV team, tried to hide his enthusiasm – until he hit third base.
“It felt really good to hit it – I came in thinking to hit the ball hard – and they threw a pitch up and I hit it hard,” said Ortiz. “I don’t know why I was running so fast, I was also trying not to smile and when I rounded third I couldn’t stop.”
But, Clovis West battled all game and behind two-run doubles from DJ Schramm and Nick Falco cut the lead to 8-6 in the top of the fifth. After an RBI single from Bears sophomore Brady Hormel in the bottom of the inning, the Golden Eagles made it 9-8 on a sacrifice fly from Chase Prieto.
Fondtain hit his home run in the bottom of the sixth, a two-run shot that caught up in the gusty wind and flew over the fence. Sophomore Jake King, armed with a devastating slider, struck out the side to finish off the game.
“We responded really well, we broke the bats out this game,” said Presno, who’s signed with Fresno State. “It’s been awhile since we’ve done that. We came into the game wanting to hit the ball around and it worked out well for us.”
Senior Carson Olson picked up the win, pitching 4⅓ innings to move to 9-0 on the season.
Meanwhile, all Clovis High does in win, win, win – to the tune of a 22-3-1 overall and 10-1 record. The Cougars beat Central 8-4 behind shortstops Mason Grotto’s two hits, three runs and an RBI and winning pitcher Chet Allison had two hits and two RBIs.
On Friday, April 28 they again beat Central 4-3, highlighted by sophomore catcher Darrien Miller’s two RBIs. Senior Darby Tatum got the win and junior Blake Sodersten got the save for the second consecutive game.
Buchanan and Clovis clash for a much-anticipated, two-game week starting on May 2 at Buchanan and May 5 at Clovis.
And the Cougars can match pitchers with the mighty Bears; Clovis boasts a team ERA of 1.68 and consists of three main pitchers in seniors Tatum and Allison and Sodersten. Buchanan has a team ERA of 1.63 anchored by senior starters Hunter Reinke, Olson and sophomores Marco Saldana and King.
“It’s going to be a good old fashioned war, no different than when the Bears and Cougars square up,” said Donald. “If we come back with the same mindset, we put ourselves in a good position to win some games.”