Go ahead and call him Daniel if you want — only his mother does, really — all D.J. Martinez insists is that you don’t lump him with that seemingly countless line of Buchanan High pitching greats.
You know: Garrett Olson, Justin Wilson, Seth Moranda, Dominic Toopozian, Jack Wheeless and now, even teammate Conner Loeprich. And on and on …
“Oh, no, no, no,” Martinez says. “Those guys are studs.”
OK, well, Daniel Joseph Martinez is but 9-0 with an 0.99 ERA after giving up three hits in six innings as the Central Section’s top-ranked Bears marched yet a step closer Friday night to their seventh Tri-River Athletic Conference title in 15 years with a 4-0 win over No. 3 Clovis West.
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“I give all my credit to my defense,” the senior right-hander says. “Without them, I’m nothing.”
That’s stretching the humble stance, but it is true the 23-3 Bears have been exceptional defensively behind shortstop Levi Zosky, second baseman Michael Beltran, third baseman Ross Dodds, first baseman Chandler Bengston and center fielder Zach Ashford — all seniors.
And Kevin Perriera, yet another senior, filled in again Friday for Beltran (bruised rib), who should return in two weeks.
Grant Gambrell struck out the side with the bases loaded in the seventh for Buchanan, which shut out Clovis West (17-9, 7-4) three times in TRAC play.
The Bears, also targeting a fifth Division I section crown in 11 years, are 10-1 in the TRAC, leading No. 8 Clovis by two games with four remaining. And they’ll play twice next week in 6:30 p.m. games — Tuesday at Buchanan; Friday at Clovis. The defending champion Cougars got a strong outing Friday from Zac Whittaker, who gave up two hits and struck out 12 in six scoreless innings of a 9-1 victory against Central.
Bears coach Tom Donald, already stocked with a dugout full of qualified assistants, received another staff boost with the addition of his son, Jason Donald. The nine-year pro utility infielder and former three-year major leaguer retired as a player after last season.
“Jason has really improved the skills of our infielders,” Donald says. “He has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and is very detail-oriented. He sees all the little things an average coach like me doesn’t.”
An RBI double by Zach Presno in the second and consecutive run-scoring singles by Dodds and Gambrell in the third thrust the Bears into control behind Martinez, who saw some action as a freshman before missing his sophomore season with shoulder surgery.