Clovis High baseball coach James Patrick, who feels participating in the Central Section playoffs should be a reward not an entitlement, was considering skipping the postseason a few weeks ago.
That would have been comparable to the Yankees saying no in October, given Patrick's credentials -- a section second-best 548 career wins and seven titles in 25 seasons.
"I just think teams should earn their way into the playoffs," he said. "I told the players it isn't automatic, even though the rules say everyone can go. I told them we weren't going if I didn't think it was important to them."
Essentially, Patrick was asking for motive more than wins, evident in the fact he allowed the Cougars to dive into the Division I pool following 9-2 and 8-3 Tri-River Athletic Conference losses to Clovis West, closing the regular season.
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"I do think our guys did everything they could," he said.
That set the stage for the playoffs and a victory as bizarre as any Patrick has had in an illustrious career that ranks second only to former Bullard and Central coach Mike Noakes (708 wins) in section history.
Down 7-3 at home Thursday to two-year reigning champion Stockdale, fourth-seeded Clovis not only scored five times to win it, 8-7, the Cougars' final three runs came on bases-loaded hit batsmen. And the final two occurred only after Dusty Valero and Brandt Weber fouled two-strike pitches with two outs.
The inning began with Valero's double and an RBI single by Ivan Perez.
"They could have easily folded the tent, but they had great at bats," Patrick said.
It may take another combination of everything that occurred against the fifth-seeded Mustangs -- talent, grit and luck -- for Clovis to reach the championship in two days.
The Cougars (17-12) will have to win tonight at top-seeded Clovis West (28-3), which also whipped them 7-0 in April. The Golden Eagles are ranked second in the state and seventh nationally.
"We haven't been very competitive against them," said Patrick, who will be matched against his son, Clovis West coach Kevin Patrick. "Obviously, we're going to have to play differently than the last three times. There won't be a whole lot of error on our side."
James Patrick would like to start Jimmy Jurado, but he may make a game-time decision with a junior left-hander who has a 1.69 ERA, but threw 112 pitches against Stockdale.
A section preview for today's semifinals (D-I through D-V) and one championship (D-VI):
Division I: Third-seeded Centennial (25-5) and host and No. 2 Buchanan (26-5) could match lefthanders Tyler Painton (11-1) and Drew Merlo (12-1).
Division II: It's West Yosemite dominated with No. 4 Redwood (20-15) visiting No. 1 Golden West (22-6) and No. 3 Frontier of the Southwest Yosemite League going to No. 2 El Diamante (15-13).
Division III: No. 1 Clovis North (27-4), ranked sixth in the state's D-III, will host No. 13 Ridgeview (9-15). And No. 3 Hanford West (21-11) drives 2 miles to No. 2 Hanford (20-7).
Division IV: Defending champion Washington (21-13), making a statement as a No. 7 seed, visits No. 6 Kingsburg (12-13). And No. 4 Selma (17-6) goes to No. 1 Kerman (22-7), which is ranked No. 8 in the state's D-IV.
Division V: Intriguing private duel with No. 4 Fresno Christian (21-5) playing at No. 1 Bakersfield Christian (27-4). No. 3 Corcoran (18-6) visits No. 2 Fowler (22-4), ranked ninth in the state's D-V.
Division VI: No. 3 Farmersville (13-12) travels to No. 1 McFarland for the title.