Clovis High fired an emphatic message Monday to open and close the first day at the 45th Fresno Easter Baseball Classic.
The 32-team tournament favorites coming in, it began in the morning for the Cougars on their home field, where sophomore Zac Whittaker pitched a no-hitter in a 2-0 win over Hoover.
And it closed in a night game at the same site, where Cody Murray improved to 6-0 in a 12-2 rout of Del Campo-Fair Oaks.
The 22-4 Cougars, top-ranked in the Central Section by The Bee and No. 7 nationally by Student Sports, will remain at home at 7 p.m. Tuesday, when junior left-hander Preston Mott will oppose junior right-hander Alec Gamboa, the ace of defending Division II champion Madera.
Also going 2-0 in the tournament's first of three days were Edison, Frontier, Franklin-Elk Grove and Crater of Central Point, Ore.
Edison, seeking its first Classic title, will oppose Franklin of the Sac-Joaquin Section today at 1 p.m. at Euless Park after sweeping Reedley 5-4 in nine innings and Tehachapi 8-5 behind Andrew Carlin's clutch hitting at Buchanan.
All teams will play four games in the tournament's regular phase, which will end Wednesday afternoon. Then the championship matching teams with best records will be played that night at 7:30 at Clovis West.
Fewest runs allowed is the first tie-breaker, and one commonly used in the Classic's history.
And Clovis, pursuing its first tournament crown since winning three straight from 1997-99, got off to an ideal start in that department behind Whittaker.
"I had everything working," said the 6-foot-1, 165-pounder, whose money pitch is a a curveball.
He has been destined to be a Cougar, having been raised across the street on Barstow Avenue: "Yeah, I've never wanted to be anything else."
And Clovis coach James Patrick has never wanted anything different: "Zac's just getting his feet wet, but he's going to be the guy in the future."
Cougars second baseman Tevin Mitchell preserved the no-hitter against North Yosemite League-leading Hoover in the fourth inning, when he dived to his left to spear a ground ball hit by Christian Urrea, popped to his feet and threw out the freshman.
The Cougars, after struggling against five Patriots pitchers, broke out to back Murray (6 IP, one unearned run, six strikeouts) against Del Campo, featuring Evan Steele's two-run double and Jake Gatewood's two hits and three RBIs.
Edison in the hunt
Edison, which is tied with Madera and Memorial atop the County/Metro Athletic Conference, beat Reedley with two outs in the bottom of the ninth on a walk to Ali Shabazz and Carlin's pinch double to left-center field.
"I told Andrew at the beginning of the inning, 'You're going to hit and I need you to deliver the game-winner,' " Tigers coach Cliff Rold said.
Not finished, Carlin — also the team's No. 1 pitcher — provided a two-RBI, go-ahead double in a seven-run fifth against Tehachapi.
Dazzling varsity debut for Bullard freshman pitcher
Bullard received a boost from an unexpected source when freshman Darren Jansen beat Liberty-Madera Ranchos 6-0 with a six-hitter.
It was the first varsity appearance for Jansen, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander up from the junior varsity: "I was nervous, but my teammates helped me out."
Knights coach Chad Thornhill brought up Jansen to give him "a little taste" of varsity experience. And it happened to occur in a morning game at Clovis West's Stan Bledsoe Field, where Jansen's father, Eddie, played for the Golden Eagles as a senior first baseman in 1988.
"We identified Darren early on in middle school as an impact player," Thornhill said. "We gave him the ball (Monday) and he ran with it. He handled himself brilliantly. He showed mental fortitude you don't normally see in a freshman."
The Knights (8-14) then lost to Frontier 3-2 in a late game at Clovis West as Titans senior right-hander Monty Stevens (5-1) pitched a seven-hitter and set up the winning run in the sixth inning with a double to left-center field.
Dom Ramos went 3 for 3 with a double and two runs and Derrick Kuhn had two RBIs as No. 7 Central defeated Hanford 8-7. The Grizzlies will match Colton Eastman against Sanger top draft prospect Luis Ortiz today at 7 p.m. at Buchanan in one of the tournament's featured pitching duals.
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