Hunter Reinke, Cory Williams and Buchanan High remained atop state and Tri-River Athletic Conference baseball Thursday with a dramatic 3-1 win over Clovis in a game on the Bears’ field that didn’t draw clouds as expected.
Or did it?
Oregon State-bound Grant Gambrell, a leading Fresno Bee Player of the Year candidate and pitcher with a 9-0 record and 0.65 ERA, didn’t oppose Cougars left-hander Zac Whittaker – at least not on the mound – in a highly anticipated showdown.
That certainly left a black cloud, even given Gambrell’s home run as a first baseman, Reinke’s three-hitter as he improved to 9-0 and Williams’ two-run, walkoff home run to right field with one out in the seventh inning.
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Gambrell’s father and school athletic director James Gambrell said no problem: “Arm’s good, just resting.”
Bears coach Tom Donald said the no-start wasn’t a problem. “He’s good and he was ready to go. He’s just got a little arm tightness and we thought best to err on the side of caution. He’ll start Tuesday,” Donald said.
And that’s a big one.
The Broncos (22-4-1, 11-2) remained a game behind the Bears by defeating Central 6-0 with the help of Matt Fraizer’s three-run double and the pitching of Brett Walker (9-0), who gave up four hits and struck out nine in six scoreless innings.
Clovis North, which handed the Bears their only loss (12-5) in the TRAC’s first round, will then play at Buchanan next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to close the regular season.
Donald considered pinch hitting for Williams in the seventh after the senior designated hitter grounded out and flew out in previous at-bats against Whittaker in left-vs.-left matchups.
But Buchanan assistant Jason Donald told Dad he suspected Williams had a big swing in him, which proved prophetic.
Williams mashed a 2-1 fastball for his first home run in two varsity seasons.
“When I saw the pitch I thought I’m just going to swing as hard as I can,” said Williams, who entered the game hitting .300 in 30 at-bats. “I knew off the bat it was gone.”
The Bears went 3-0 against section No. 3 and state No. 7 Clovis in the TRAC, with Gambrell beating Whittaker 2-1 in early April and seldom-used junior Kyle McKenney coming through big in an 8-0 win Tuesday.