With his Clovis North Broncos trailing 9-3 headed into the fifth inning, head coach Jeff Prieto pulled the team together and shared a message — make Tuesday night’s ballgame against Clovis West a memorable one.
“I told [the team] that if they found a way to come back and win this game, people are going to be talking about this game for a long time,” Prieto said. “As we kept going, I kept saying it and guys were getting juiced and winking at me and things like that.”
Senior first baseman Blake King put a big dent in the Broncos’ six-run deficit with one swing, launching a grand slam to left field in the fifth inning. Clovis North tied the game an inning later and kept pace with Clovis West until the 10th inning.
The Broncos scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the top of the 10th. King then ripped a two-run single through the left side and Hunter Jansen finished off Clovis North’s comeback with a two-run home run halfway up the right field trees at Stan Bledsoe Field.
Just like that, Clovis North scored 11 unanswered runs to win its TRAC baseball opener, 14-9 over Clovis West in 10 innings.
“[Trailing 9-3] is not ideal, but our guys have been in this situation all year,” Prieto said. “In almost every game, we’ve been down early and we fight and come back and find a way to win.”
Clovis North (10-3, 1-0 TRAC) will play at Clovis West (9-3-1, 0-1 TRAC) again Thursday and Saturday, in the first year of the new three-game series format for league matchups. The Broncos’ slugging senior King said winning the first game of the series “opens up a lot of doors” for his team.
“[There are] a lot of guys opening up their confidence, getting guys ready for this TRAC,” King said. “I think today was a big wake-up call for us after getting this big win.”
Clovis West stormed out to a big lead, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Aaron Rey and Tyler Patrick each hit RBI singles for the Golden Eagles.
Clovis North got the runs back in the top of the third inning, with Jayden Hertel lining a two-run double into the left-center field gap and Derrick Cruz hitting a game-tying RBI single.
Clovis West then scored two runs in the bottom of the third and four runs in the bottom of the fourth, taking a 9-3 lead into the fateful fifth inning.
That’s when King strode to the plate with one out and the bases loaded. Clovis West pitcher Chase Barsotti, who relieved starter Nate Baeza after three innings, walked the previous three batters straight.
King, however, understood the deep arsenal of pitches Barsotti had and stayed ready for one of them.
“I was just trying to ‘see ball, hit ball,’” King said. “I knew he had a disgusting slider coming through and a disgusting cutter and a lot of our guys were missing it. I was just trying to stick to my approach and I got it, so it was an awesome feeling.”
King hit a grand slam, cutting Clovis West’s lead to 9-7. As the senior rounded the bases, he turned toward the Clovis West dugout and responded to a few chirps he received during his at-bat.
It was good ‘ol competitive TRAC baseball.
“The grand slam was huge, and I know [King] gets motivated,” Prieto said. “Obviously there was some chirping going on back and forth and stuff like that, but he rose to the occasion. Blake’s a great kid and he’s come a long way since his freshman year in the program.”
Clovis North closed the gap fully in the sixth with another Cruz RBI single and a bases-loaded walk.
Neither team scored in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Clovis North relied on Nathan Lucas out of the bullpen, and the senior delivered 5.1 shutout innings.
The Broncos picked up Lucas in the 10th inning, scoring five runs in the top half of the frame to secure a win that Prieto will not forget anytime soon.
“This win is huge, especially being down like we were and then being able to fight and come back and win it, especially on the road,” Prieto said. “I told the guys before the game that they have to play every game like it’s the championship game because you don’t know which game is going to cost you the league title.”
Central tops Clovis on the road
Clovis High dropped its league opener at home against Central Tuesday, 4-1. The Grizzlies were powered by a complete-game performance from Dean McCurley, who struck out 10 and allowed his only run in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly by Clovis senior Logan Sumter.
Central scored its four runs early in the ballgame. A trio of one-out hits and a Cougar error staked Central to a 2-0 lead after the first inning. A sacrifice fly in the third and McCurley’s RBI double in the fourth finished the Grizzlies’ scoring for the evening.
Central (6-6, 1-0 TRAC) will play game 2 of its series at Clovis (8-4, 0-1 TRAC) on Thursday
Buchanan powers way to league-opening win over Clovis East
Buchanan extended its winning streak to six games with a dominant 15-1 victory over Clovis East in its TRAC opener at home Tuesday.
Three Bears had multiple RBIs — Austin Young hit 3-for-4 with three RBIs, Evan Wallace also hit 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a double, and Max Bernal lined a double with two RBIs to his name.
Starting pitcher Christian Williams pitched a complete game on 61 pitches, delivering an efficient outing to start out the three-game series.
Buchanan (12-1, 1-0 TRAC) hosts Clovis East (5-7, 0-1 TRAC) for game 2 of the series on Thursday.