The sound of a cracking aluminum bat means one thing for Clovis East shortstop Elias Mart: It’s time to make a play.
With a Fresno High runner on second base during a recent scrimmage, the familiar sound came accompanied by a line drive to Mart’s far left. In most cases, it’s a tough play for an infielder and the run likely scores.
Not the case for Mart, who fielded the ball behind second base, spun around and fired a bullet to nab the baserunner at first. Third out. Run saved.
It’s the talent and experience of the Timberwolves’ senior group of players – including Mart – which lead to an optimistic forecast for Clovis East baseball in 2020. Third-year head coach Ryan Smith named a few seniors he expects to stand out this season.
“Josh Sue is returning as our catcher and he controls everything in the game,” Smith said. “Elias Mart makes big plays and keeps our dugout going. A.J. Hodgerney is going to be our centerfielder and when he’s healthy, he can hit and fly around the field.”
This year’s Clovis East squad won’t solely ride on their experienced bunch of seniors. Part of the Timberwolves’ promising 2020 outlook is their crop of juniors with high potential.
“You got young guys like Blake Bolton and Tomas Canales who could help a ton,” Smith said. “From top to bottom of this roster, we literally don’t have a single guy who I worry about putting on the field.”
Bolton – the junior infielder – plays hard at second base and forms one of the best middle infield duos in the Valley, with himself and Mart. Lots of double plays will be turned by the pair, providing a boost to any pitcher on the mound.
Canales – the right-handed junior pitcher – will close games out of the bullpen and features a devastating combination of fastball and breaking ball to keep hitters unbalanced. The young flamethrower is also equipped with a crafty pickoff move that keeps baserunners uneasy as well.
Canales is just one cog in a pitching staff Ryan Smith described as “greatly improved.”
“Sean Cunningham is our pitching coach and has done an unbelievable job. Sean committed to this staff, did his homework and it paid off big time,” Smith said. He noted three senior starters who will be the heart of the Timberwolves’ rotation.
“Elijah Acosta didn’t have the year he wanted last year, but he’s going to surprise lots of people this year. Gino Hellmuth is somebody I’m also expecting to have a breakout year,” Smith said. “Tyler Parker added a new pitch this offseason and has been consistent every week.”
The head coach’s excitement for this season goes beyond the individual stars for Clovis East. Smith wants to see if his players can bond as a team to create a memorable season.
“I’m most excited to see how this senior and junior group of players come together. Out of fall camp, we gained serious momentum and the kids really enjoyed being around each other,” Smith said. “They like coming to work and practicing hard every day.”
Every time the Timberwolves go to work, they wear “Be The Standard” across the back of their practice shirts. The seniors on the team came up with the slogan after Ryan Smith challenged them with a question: What do you want your final legacy to be?
These seniors have grown, practiced and played together for years, dating back to their days at Reyburn Intermediate. Now, this group will have one final chance to reach Pete Biden Field and secure a Valley ring.
That’s the legacy the senior Timberwolves wish to leave behind: a Valley championship and a story for the rest of their lives.