Prep baseball: Tough to stay on top in TRAC
There was a day not too long ago when the domestic diamond duels of the Patricks were quite the buzz in Tri-River Athletic Conference baseball: James the father vs. Kevin the son; brothers Chris vs. Kevin; Dad vs. Chris, and so on.
But it didn’t take long for them to get trumped by the overall weekly competition in a league that continues to pound its drum as the state’s finest.
“It’s a grind,” says coach Chris Patrick of top-ranked Clovis North (9-2), which will visit No. 3 Clovis West (9-2) today at 6:45 p.m. in a TRAC opener. “There are no gimmies. If you don’t bring it any given night, there’s a good chance you’re going to get embarrassed. It’s fun, though. There’s no other league I’d rather be in.”
Consider the early storylines today in the TRAC:
– Clovis North’s Jack Labosky (3-0, 0.37 ERA) vs. Clovis West’s Marco Pierce (3-0, 1.00).
– Central (9-1), ranked No. 4 in the section and No. 14 in the state, at Buchanan (9-0-1), ranked No. 2 in the section and No. 11 in the state. First pitch at 3:45 p.m.
– Clovis East (6-5), No. 9 in the section, at No. 6 Clovis (9-3) as Cougars coach James Patrick tries once again to land career win No. 600 (he’s 0 for 2). First pitch at 6:30 p.m.
“Same old story,” Clovis West coach Kevin Patrick says. “Anybody can win it.”
His Golden Eagles weren’t expected to be part of the equation, and that’s an unusual association with Clovis West baseball. He’s 136-36 (.791 winning percentage) in six seasons with the program.
The Eagles went 28-5 last year with five Bee All-Stars, including three college scholarship players, featuring pitcher/first baseman Tyler Ferguson (Vanderbilt). But they lost 10-4 to Clovis in the D-I semifinals after having swept three games from the Cougars in TRAC play.
Further, they lost every position starter and frontline pitcher to graduation.
“They’re the surprise of the section,” Chris Patrick says. “They knew what they had in Marco, but they also had a lot of unknowns. They’re flying under the radar.”
No more, and certainly not when Pierce is on the bump.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior pitched only 162/3 innings last year for no other reason than he had four established seniors in front of him.
But he exploded late in the season, signed with Oregon and, tonight, opposes Labosky — merely The Bee’s early call for Player of the Year, and as a junior no less.
A third baseman when he’s not pitching, Labosky is also hitting .600 (18 for 30) with six doubles and nine RBIs.
Not to be ignored with the bat is Pierce, who’s hitting .355 after banging game-changing home runs against Beyer-Modesto and perennial Kern County power Centennial.
Pierce was on the Clovis West marquee in February.
Alec Antenucci and Evan Harley were not.
Antenucci, who didn’t pitch a varsity inning last year, is 1-1 with a 1.17 ERA and a head-snapping 28-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24 innings.
Harley, who pitched 31/3 varsity innings in 2012, is 4-0 with an 0.35 ERA and a 22-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20 innings.
For all that, Kevin Patrick applauds his pitching coach and 1995 Clovis High senior teammate Shawn Hannah: “He does a fabulous job of developing pitchers. Every year, someone comes out of nowhere and steps up, and this year is no different.”
James Patrick’s first of six section titles with the Cougars was with that 1995 team.
Buchanan invited to 1st Boras Baseball Classic
Buchanan, a six-time Fresno Easter Baseball Classic champion since 2000, will not participate in the 34-team tournament this season.
But the Bears and coach Tom Donald have quite the excuse: They’ll play in the first Boras Baseball Classic of California — a 32-team invitational drawing 16 of the elite programs from each of the state’s North and South.
The end result will be a de-facto state championship April 13 at the University of Pacific in Stockton.
The Bears, also four-time section D-I champions since 2005, will play in the event’s North bracket March 25-29 at Daniel Metcalfe Memorial Ballpark in Sacramento. They’ll open against Rio Americano-Sacramento on March 26.
The SoCal bracket will be played April 2-5 at JSerra-San Juan Capistrano and Mater Dei-Santa Ana.
The participating teams are guaranteed a minimum of four games, will not pay an entry fee — normally standard for prep tournaments — and will receive a $1,000 donation from the Boras Corp.
“We want to provide outstanding high school teams a chance to participate in an elite competition, while at the same time giving them a world-class venue to showcase their talent in front of collegiate-level coaches and professional scouts,” says Scott Boras, the iconic sports agent and Founder and CEO of the Boras Corp.
Kayajanian steps down as SJVOA president
Bob Kayajanian on Thursday announced he’s resigning as president of the San Joaquin Valley Officials Association, effective March 31.
This means the longtime SJVOA, involving 628 officials in nine sports, is about to lose — as its point guard, at least — a qualified future Fresno Athletic Hall of Famer who’s been in the game for 45 years, and for all the right reasons: kids.
“We approach our service,” he says, “with the mind-set that the game is not about us; it is about the sports we oversee and those who play, coach or administer to the student-athletes who participate.”
Kayajanian says he’ll remain in the SJVOA as its basketball supervisor.
Central Section rankings: Baseball
1. Clovis North 9-2
2. Buchanan 9-0-1
3. Clovis West 9-2
4. Central 9-1
5. Frontier 6-2-1
6. Clovis 9-3
7. Garces 7-2
8. Stockdale 4-4
9. Clovis East 6-5
10. Bakersfield 6-3
By Andy Boogaard