Fontes told the Buchanan starting pitcher he only had a few more pitches left.
“I went out there to give him a little bit of a break,” Fontes said. “It was starting to speed up a little bit, so I told him this was going to be his last hitter.”
“I told him, ‘Reach into your tank, make some pitches and get us back in the dugout.’”
Williams only needed one more pitch to do that, inducing a groundout to escape the fifth-inning jam. Colton O’Toole came out of the bullpen and recorded the final six outs in Buchanan’s 5-3 win over Central on Tuesday.
Buchanan (18-1, 7-0 TRAC) posted its lowest scoring total since its 4-3 loss at Bullard last month, but extended its 12-game winning streak behind clutch pitching and defense.
“In this conference, you have to win in a bunch of different ways,” Fontes said. “Some games, it’ll be a slugfest where you’re hitting balls all over the field, and in other games, it’s going to be a pitching and defensive game.”
It looked like the former in the early innings. Central scored in the first on a Nico Gaucin ground ball that Buchanan third baseman Drew Smith threw wide of first base. The scorer ruled it an RBI infield single.
The Bears answered back in the second with three hits to plate two runs. UC Santa Barbara signee Josh Williams hit an RBI double to left field and Sky Collins drove him in with an RBI single.
Central retook a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the frame on Ryan Spalleiro’s RBI groundout and Dallan Alles’ two-out RBI single.
But Buchanan, taking advantage of an early exit by Central starting pitcher Dean McCurley, loaded the bases against reliever Nate Nino with one out in the third.
Corbin Ybarra hit a ground ball to Central second baseman Josh Barajas, who overthrew the shortstop while trying to turn the inning-ending double play. The error scored the go-ahead runs for Buchanan, who added one more on Josh Williams’ RBI fielder’s choice.
After back-and-forth scoring through the first two-and-a-half innings, pitching on both sides kept the bats quiet. Relieving Nino, Ryan Spalleiro tossed two perfect innings in relief for the Grizzlies.
After Williams got out of the fifth inning, Buchanan brought in reliever Braxton Cobb, who gave up a lead-off single and hit a batter. That prompted Fontes to make a quick pitching change and turn to O’Toole for the six-out save.
As Fontes handed the ball to O’Toole, he gave the sophomore right-hander a vote of confidence.
“He told me to just do my thing,” O’Toole said. “He’s put me in that situation before and I just had to execute.”
O’Toole retired the next six Grizzlies batters he faced to earn the save. In grind-it-out fashion, the Buchanan Bears stayed undefeated in TRAC play and, at 18-1, matched their best baseball record in school history.
“We always gut out wins,” O’Toole said. “Even when we don’t have our best stuff, we find a way to win when it’s tough.”
Clovis holds on in entertaining win at Clovis North
It all came together with two outs in the seventh inning for Clovis High.
Logan Sumter drew a walk, Eli Henderson hit an infield single and Garrett Garfield stepped to the plate in a tied 3-3 ballgame with the go-ahead run in scoring position.
“I saw a curveball for the first two pitches and I didn’t get it,” Garfield said. “Then they gave me the outside pitch and I just slapped it into right field.”
Garfield drove in the game-winning RBI and Clovis High held on in an exciting finish, defeating Clovis North on the road, 4-3.
Clovis (10-8, 2-5 TRAC) nearly lost the lead in the bottom of the seventh when Jayden Hertel singled and Derrick Cruz doubled with one out, putting two Broncos in scoring position.
Cougars head coach Chris Patrick ordered an intentional walk of Cooper Pommenville to load the bases, opening up a double play opportunity or a force out at home plate. But Clovis North had one of its most powerful hitters, Blake King, at the plate and a chance to walk it off with a base hit.
Clovis reliever Ryan Napier went to his change-up to strike out King swinging, before getting a groundout to end the ballgame.
Tuesday’s seventh inning was a notable improvement for Clovis High compared to last Thursday, when the Cougars led state-ranked No, 3 Buchanan 6-3 in the sixth inning, but let the lead slip away in a walk-off loss.
“What I saw [last Thursday] was a lot of fight and a want to win, and we actually came together as a team,” Garfield said. “I think game by game, we’re coming closer as a team and today showed it really well.”
Clovis picked up its runs on RBI singles from Mick Backowski and Brayden Nicholson in the first inning, staking the Cougars to an early 2-0 lead.
Clovis North scored on Pommenville’s RBI single in the second, but Clovis got the run back in the top of the third off a Bronco error. Clovis North tied the game at 3 in the bottom of the inning on Pommenville’s sacrifice fly and Nick Shows’ RBI single.
With the loss, the Broncos (13-6, 4-3 TRAC) remain tied for second in the TRAC standings with Central (9-9, 4-3 TRAC).
Clovis West shuts out Clovis East
Nathan Baeza threw six scoreless innings as Clovis West won a series opener for the first time this season, defeating Clovis East on the road, 7-0.
Senior Wyatt Gibson hit 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs to lead the Golden Eagles’ offense. Another senior, Aaron Rey, went deep to left field for a two-run home run. Freshman Marc Anthony Caroll also had a productive day at the plate, hitting 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
After dropping its previous two series to Clovis North and Central, Clovis West (12-6-1, 3-4 TRAC) will try to secure a series win at Clovis East (6-12, 1-6 TRAC) on Thursday.