It’s Derby Week and the stretch run of Central Section baseball as well.
Before the gates swing open for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, there will be duels among leaders of six leagues in the section. They will be headlined by two games among The Bee’s top-ranked Buchanan and Clovis, which has climbed to No. 3 and into second in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
Buchanan (23-3), behind a senior-driven cast, is 10-1 and two games ahead of the Cougars heading into their 6:30 p.m. game today on the Bears’ field. They will play at Clovis on Friday at the same time before the regular season closes next week. Section playoff seeding will be determined May 9 in Commissioner Jim Crichlow’s office at Porterville.
Buchanan, second to Clovis for the section Division I title last year after winning four crowns in the previous nine seasons, is also ranked second in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. JSerra-San Juan Capistrano (17-3) of the Southern Section is No. 1.
The Bears defeated Clovis 1-0 in the TRAC’s first round behind Conner Loeprich’s two-hitter and 12 strikeouts. He is 5-0 with a 1.36 ERA and part of the senior group that also counts pitcher D.J. Martinez (9-0, 0.99), infielders Levi Zosky (.300), Michael Beltran (.312), Ross Dodds (.347) and Chandler Bengston (.323), and outfielders Zach Ashford (.483) and Nick Herbert (.357).
“The senior leadership has been tremendous,” Buchanan coach Tom Donald says. “They’re not rah-rah guys, but mature kids who come from great families. And that’s a nice situation to be in.”
Elsewhere, the County/Metro Athletic Conference has No. 5 Edison (10-1), No. 9 Bullard (9-2) and No. 7 Madera (8-3) driving to the wire.
Edison will play at Madera at 6:30 p.m. today before the teams go at it again on the Tigers’ field at 3:30 p.m. Friday. Edison and Bullard will play twice next week.
Additional league showdowns today will send No. 6 Tulare Western (5-1) to Porterville (6-0) in the East Yosemite at 4:30 p.m. and No. 13 Exeter (9-2) to Kingsburg (8-3) in the Central Sequoia at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, No. 10 Redwood (7-2) will play at No. 11 El Diamante (6-2) in the West Yosemite at 4:15 p.m. Friday, Dos Palos (5-1) visits Firebaugh (5-1) in the West Sierra.