THE BEE'S BASEBALL COACH OF THE YEAR: JAMES PATRICK
•Best of the best:
The glossy stats and facts are but part of the story. Yes, Patrick's Cougars tied a Central Section record for wins in a 33-5 season, won the Tri-River Athletic Conference and Division I titles, and finished ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 4 nationally by CBS MaxPreps. Perhaps more impressive is that it all was achieved against arguably the state's most difficult schedule, if not the nation's. Buchanan (No. 6), Clovis North (No. 16) and Clovis West (No. 27) of the TRAC also finished ranked in the state. In addition, Clovis played in high caliber tournaments at the Coca Cola Classic, Central California Showcase, National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C. (placing second), and Fresno Easter Classic. Patrick is 648-220-2 (.746) with 13 league and eight section titles in 29 years at Memorial (two) and Clovis (27). He's third in section career wins behind Mike Noakes (708-261-7, Bullard/Central, 1967-2002) and Ken Papi (650-436, Fresno, 1975-present), according to section historian Bob Barnett.
"It was an honor to coach these guys; they were a tremendously resilient group of players," Patrick says. "We had 10 one-run victories. And, typically, when that happens, when a team has to grind out that many, it's hard to finish because you're worn out. But it was the opposite with these guys; they could have played another two or three months. They loved to practice and compete. It was a great team that beat tremendous competition."
•All in the family:
Patrick's sons, Kevin and Chris, are enjoying successful coaching careers at Clovis West and Clovis North. And James Patrick's wife of 37 years, Cecilia, can be found waiting for her husband behind the backstop after every game, home and away. "It's a family commitment," James Patrick says. "If you're going to be in it for the long haul, there are no short cuts. We're competitive people and in this profession, we spend a lot of time with other peoples kids. Cecilia sacrifices a lot, and I'm lucky to have her."
More Coaching Kudos
•Tom Donald, Buchanan:
Went 25-8 and was right there at the D-I wire despite not receiving an inning from 2013 Bee All-Star Jack Wheeless (12-1, 1.18), who was injured.
•Sam Flores, Hoover:
Delivered a 20-7 record, the Patriots' first North Yosemite League title in 39 years and their first playoff win in 14.
•Rick Lantrip, Golden West:
Went 19-13 and as ninth seed won school's first section title (D-III) in his first season with the Trailblazers.
•Ken Searcy, Tulare Western:
Went 10-0 in the East Yosemite League, 29-5-1 overall and won D-II championship -- only the third section title in program history.
•Jay Preuss, Kerman:
Plowing forward despite loss of four-year starter and third-round major league draft pick Carlos Salazar, the Cal-Hi Sports Small Schools Coach of the Year produced school-record 28-4-1 mark and D-IV crown.
•Steve Garver, Exeter:
Monarchs shed humbling 3-12 experience in the Central Sequoia League, captured the D-V title as a No. 3 seed -- the program's second section championship in 60 years -- and finished 18-14 in the coach's 22nd season.
•Don Watkins, Minarets:
Mustangs punctuated 28-5 season with 3-2 win over Farmersville for D-VI title and finished top-ranked in Cal-Hi Sports' state D-V rankings