The opening of the 46th Fresno Easter Baseball Classic on Monday brought 87-degree temperatures — 17 above normal — and a lot more of the unusual.
There was a tie that really mattered in the big picture because it involved Kerman, a longtime Division IV program now up to D-III, making a statement by pulling off a 5-5 tie with the Central Section’s fourth-ranked Clovis North on a three-run, two-out pinch double by sophomore Marcus Davis in the bottom of the ninth.
Fresno, Sunnyside and Reedley of the North Yosemite League all emerged 2-0 in a tournament-record 38-school field that will guarantee four games to each team in the regular phase through Wednesday afternoon.
The last team from the NYL as it is structured today to win the Classic was Hoover in 1996. And tournament host Fresno last won one in 1989, but the 12-6 Warriors bolted out of the box behind complete-game performances from Oscar Topete and Nick Serna in 11-0 (five innings) and 6-0 wins over Yosemite and Crater-Oregon at Euless Park.
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And then there was Alec Gamboa. And how unusual is he?
In an era of single-sport specialization — many athletes who play year-round with one egg in their basket in pursuit of college scholarships — Gamboa could be found lacing up the cleats and playing two more baseball games.
After placing in the state in wrestling for the third consecutive season.
After starring in football as a two-way player for a section runner-up team.
And all with but a weekend break in between.
“It’s a grind, but I really love it,” said Gamboa, a left-handed pitcher/outfielder who will start on the bump at Clovis East at 7 p.m. Tuesday after the Coyotes lost to Buchanan 7-6 and tied Hanford 0-0 in nine innings.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder signed with Fresno State as a pitcher. But, hey, what about when the Bulldogs bring back wrestling?
“I’m pretty much baseball from here on out,” he said with a laugh.
“I grew up going out there and watching Fresno State. And, as I grew up, I realized there were other schools, but I always wanted to go to Fresno State. It’s been a dream.”
with a purpose
Kerman played in the 2013 Fresno Easter Classic in what originally was thought to be a one-time deal — basically to showcase now-pro pitcher Carlos Salazar, who lost 1-0 to Clovis and Jake Gatewood before 2,500 fans in a tournament epic.
That was actually the Lions’ only loss in four Classic games that year. They made the D-IV semis that season before winning the division last year at 28-4-1, landing Cal-Hi Sports Small Schools Coach of the Year honors for Jay Preuss.
Now 184-93-5 in 10 years with the program, he also won D-IV in 2012. This success resulted in Kerman being elevated to D-III this season as part of the section’s competitive equity system, which shapes division by performance, not enrollment.
With 1,284 students, the Lions are clearly one of the smallest schools in the Fresno Easter Classic.
But they threw numbers and intimidation out the window against perennial D-I power Clovis North, which draws from 2,300 students.
Kerman tied it in the seventh on Evan Sagariballa’s single and Andrew Flores’ RBI double.
Then the Lions rallied yet again to tie it for good, 5-5, in the ninth on D’Marco Ramirez’s double, Isaiah Daniel’s single, a walk and Davis’ double.
Kerman in recent years had been playing mostly in the Selma Greater Kiwanis tournament.
“Playing mostly lower-division teams there doesn’t help us with the playoffs, especially now that we’re D-III,” Preuss says. “We need to be challenged with a tougher schedule. Enrollment doesn’t matter to us. We consider Kerman a baseball school and I want to raise the bar for our program.”
The Lions will to go Clovis High on Tuesday for 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. games with Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove and North before opposing Lemoore on Wednesday at Buchanan in a duel surely to have D-III seeding implications in five weeks.
Selma solid in relief — sound familiar?
Buchanan sophomore right-hander Quentin Selma gave up only two hits in 3 2/3 innings to earn the win against Madera.
That kind of relief performance can be found in his pedigree.
“It’s always been in the family,” said the 6-2, 180-pounder, whose late grandfather, Dick Selma, pitched 307 games — mostly in relief — for seven major league teams from 1965-74.
Quentin Selma also had two hits against both Madera and Franklin-Elk Grove, but six-time Classic champion Buchanan — ranked No. 1 in the section, No. 6 in the state and 13th nationally — lost 3-2 at home to the 8-2 Wildcats in a late game.
Franklin, one of eight Sacramento-area teams from the Sac-Joaquin Section in the tournament, received six strong innings from starting pitcher Zachary Tresemer and a save from Hank LoForte.