Bullard beats Clovis for D-I baseball title
This was about coach/player trust, to say nothing of a senior stallion determined to ride Bullard High into the winner’s circle.
Two days after throwing 31 pitches in relief in a Central Section Division I semifinal, Blake Quinn returned to the dugout after the top of the sixth Thursday, having thrown 123 more and his team up by four runs.
Coach Chad Thornhill looked him in the eye and asked: “How are you doing, son? Your pitch count’s up.”
Quinn: “I’ve got it, Coach.”
Thornhill: “OK, then take me home.”
Quinn (10-2) did just that, helped by a game-ending unassisted double play by first baseman Josh Ornelas, finishing with a 135-pitch six-hitter and nine strikeouts and the 6-2 victory.
“I wanted to go out like this,” Quinn said after delivering the Knights’ first section baseball title in 13 years and their seventh overall.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has signed with Fresno State, but will “definitely” consider playing for pay instead, should he get drafted in two weeks and receive an acceptable contract offer.
He’s flying to Houston next week to work out for the Astros.
Quinn was already flying Thursday in front of a standing-room-only crowd of around 2,000 after second-seeded Bullard (26-7) parlayed seven gifts from No. 8 Clovis (20-15) while scoring five unearned runs in the fourth inning for a 6-1 lead.
Niko Pacheco’s RBI double was the only hit in an inning that saw the Cougars betray their history while winning six section championships and 557 games under coach James Patrick in 25 years.
Clovis contributed three walks, two hit by pitches and two errors in the inning.
“That was a rough one,” Patrick said.
On Tuesday, Bullard beat defending champion Buchanan 4-3 on a bad-hop single in the bottom of the eighth.”
“There’s a little bit of luck in every championship,” Thornhill said. “Regardless of how you’re playing, you still need a break, and the last couple of days we got them.”
Pacheco needed no help, however, while going 3 for 3 with two doubles and his runaway team-leading 35th and 36th RBIs of the season.
And the win carried special meaning for the junior catcher, five months after he started at quarterback for a Bullard team battered 38-3 at Bakersfield for the D-I title.
He arose from bed Thursday morning and told his father, Chris Pacheco: “No way I’m losing twice in a Valley championship game in one year.”
About 12 hours later — a .364 hitting season and superb defense in his first year behind the dish complete — Niko Pacheco said: “I was skeptical about saying it, but I sure meant it.”
They are the champions
– Division I: Bullard
– Division II: Edison
– Division III: Garces
– Division IV: Kerman
– Division V: Corcoran
– Division VI:Mendota
By Andy Boogaard