It was three weeks ago and a night like none other in the seven-year career of Clovis North High baseball coach Chris Patrick.
His team had its annual fundraising dinner, generally a feel-good event for a program that had gone 133-42 with a section title and one runner-up in his first six seasons.
Only, on this particular night at the Sportsman’s Club in Fresno, he stood in front of a large audience with a 4-7 record: “I told the parents, ‘Be patient with us, we’re going to be OK when it’s all said and done.’ I knew we had it in us, I knew there was some talent in the dugout.”
It surfaced in shocking fashion Thursday night at Buchanan, which arrived for a Tri-River Athletic Conference showdown 14-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in the section, No. 6 in the state and 13th nationally.
“Just see ball, hit ball,” is what Broncos sophomore Noah Haupt said he was thinking before lining a Grant Gambrell fastball deep into right-center field for a two-out, two-run double, highlighting a three-run rally in the top of the seventh inning for a 4-3 win over the Bears.
Gambrell had recorded eight consecutive outs in relief, including five strikeouts, before giving up Jacob Fraizer’s single to right, brother Matt Fraizer’s infield single and Jacob Boele’s opposite-field RBI single to left on an 0-2 count before Haupt’s blast.
All with two outs.
And senior right-handed reliever Cooper Copland made it hold up with a 1-2-3 performance in the bottom of the inning as Clovis North improved to 9-7 overall and 5-0 in the TRAC, breaking a first-place tie with Buchanan at the conclusion of the league’s first round.
Yes, 5-0 in one of the state’s elite leagues after starting 0-2 with nonleague losses to Edison and Sunnyside, 2-4 and 3-7.
The Bears had actually blasted Enochs-Modesto 18-2 in the Central California Showcase a few hours before that fundraiser.
“We’re usually 8-1 or something like that early in the year,” Patrick said.
“This year, we weren’t finding a way to win, but I knew we would eventually. I just didn’t know if it would be after Easter or when.”
Clovis North and Buchanan will both play in the 38-team Fresno Easter Baseball Classic Monday through Wednesday.
The Broncos will open at home Monday against Kerman at 10 a.m. and Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove at 7 p.m.; the Bears will open at home the same day against Madera at 10 a.m. and Franklin-Elk Grove at 7 p.m.
Copland pitched two scoreless innings of relief. He followed Michael Williams, who entered in the fourth with runners on first and third and got Michael Beltran to ground into a double play turned by shortstop Joey Toles and second baseman Jacob Fraizer.
Beltran had hit an RBI double in the Bears’ three-run third.
It also featured a single by Zach Ashford and RBI singles by Ross Dodds and Tyler Bottorf.