The man who wanted to be a football coach achieved what no other has in the 123-year history of Central Section baseball Tuesday night – a 709th win.
“I’m glad we did it in good fashion; the boys played magnificently today,” said Clovis’ James Patrick, who became the section’s winningest coach with a 7-1 Tri-River Athletic Conference decision over Clovis East on the Cougars’ Lloyd Merriman Field as junior right-hander Blake Sodersten gave up two hits in six innings.
The 30-year Clovis coach entered the game with 708 wins and tied with Mike Noakes, who had held the record for 25 years, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
The Cougars are 14-2-1 overall and 5-1 in the TRAC, boosting Patrick’s record to 709-242-3 for a career winning percentage of .745. He also ranks 10th in the state in wins, according to Cal-Hi Sports, has won eight section titles and 12 league championships.
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While not establishing a definite timeline, the 58-year-old says he’ll likely teach and coach for two more years.
“I didn’t hang around just to break the record,” he said after receiving a plaque at home plate from Clovis Unified Associate Superintendent Norm Anderson commemorating the milestone. “And I really think we have a good team that could win it all. I want to watch these guys compete from here on out. I’m glad this is behind us, and now it’s time to get down to business.”
And that’s supported by his wife of 41 years, Cecilia, wearing Cougars colors with a gold blouse, blue necklace, and choking back tears: “He never talked about the record at home, absolutely not. He’s so humble. Awards are never what he’s been about. This is special, amazing. I’m so proud of him.”
Patrick launched his baseball coaching career two seasons at Memorial, where he was a three-sport standout and graduated in 1976. The left-handed quarterback led the Panthers to a 12-0 record and the section Sequoias Division title in 1974. And, ironically, he actually delivered Clovis’ first football loss at Lamonica Field, in 1975.
He aspired to be a football coach. But that changed in the spring of 1983, when Memorial’s Kevin Johns turned over the baseball keys to concentrate on being the school’s athletics director. He recently retired after assisting Clovis football and track and field for years.
Noakes went 708-261-7 (.729) in 32 years – 26 at Bullard and six at Central. He retired after the 2002 season and remains an assistant at Fresno City College.
He commented on Patrick this week: “He’s a fabulous coach and, through the years, developed this culture of tough-guy baseball players who come in there with expectations to play well and win.”
On a pleasant Tuesday night, Sodersten gave up two hits in six innings in only his second start and Clovis East eased Patrick’s step to the summit with poor defense behind senior right-hander Andrew Rodriguez.
Four Timberwolves errors wrapped around Jay Massey’s single came in a Cougars three-run third that made it 5-1.
Clovis, ranked 10th in the state (Cal-Hi Sports) and trailing national No. 1 Buchanan (MaxPreps) by a game in the league, had taken a 2-1 lead in the second on singles by Clayton Alexander, Darrien Miller and Sodersten.
Patrick texted Sodersten Sunday night, informing the pitcher with a 2-1 record and 1.05 earned-run average his Tuesday night assignment.
And it would be historical.
“He told me I was getting the start and I was pretty excited because I knew this was going to happen,” said Sodersten. “It’s really a big deal. This, definitely, is something I’ll be able to remember when I get older.”