Buchanan High is two wins from adding more bling to its baseball stadium.
Hunter Reinke grinded through five innings while improving to 11-0, and the Bears – a few days after being anointed No. 1 nationally in USA Today’s Super 25 Computer Rankings – pounded six extra-base hits in a 9-1 home win over Liberty-Bakersfield on Thursday night in a quarterfinal of the Central Section Division I playoffs.
This comes five years after Buchanan finished 30-2 and top-ranked nationally by ESPN RISE.
That prompted a “NATIONAL CHAMPIONS” board to be mounted atop the Buchanan stadium’s scoreboard beyond the left-center field wall.
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That’s a mythical crown, of course, because there aren’t actual national playoffs.
But it’s a lifetime memory nonetheless, and the 28-1 and top-seeded Bears are 14 innings short of another in a season that also has them ranked No. 2 in CBS MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings.
Those promise to be 14 competitive innings, should they have the opportunity to play them all.
Tuesday’s 4:30 p.m. semifinal at home against Bullard will come three months after Buchanan dominated the Knights 9-1 in the Coca Cola Classic. The Knights are 20-5 since.
Next up is fourth-seeded Bullard (21-8), the County/Metro Athletic Conference champion, which rode Jacob Pizzo’s 11th win of the season and 27th of a four-year varsity career in a 4-2 decision over No. 5 Stockdale.
The 4:30 p.m. semifinal at home against the Knights will come three months after Buchanan dominated them 9-1 in the Coca Cola Classic. But Bullard has gone 20-5 since.
The Knights will oppose Oregon State-commit Grant Gambrell (10-0, 0.59 ERA), who beat them the first time.
Get by that and the Bears will find Tuesday’s Clovis-Clovis North winner in a third-straight all-TRAC D-I final May 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Visalia’s Rawhide Ballpark.
TRAC members Buchanan, Clovis and Clovis North have won the past three D-I titles since Bullard hung the plaque in 2012 with a 6-2 win over Clovis.
Liberty (17-13) arrived Thursday in a mismatch, having finished 6-9 and in fourth in the Southwest Yosemite League.
The Patriots could merely watch in awe a Bearish opponent stacked with six major-college commits.
Got myself in a couple jams, but I got myself out of them pretty well, also.
Buchanan’s Hunter Reinke, a pitcher committed to Oregon
Reinke, a junior right-hander pledged to Oregon of the Pacific-12 Conference, threw 83 pitches in five innings. But he repeatedly worked out of trouble – a season modus operandi – while giving up three hits and the one run.
“Got myself in a couple jams,” the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder said, “but I got myself out of them pretty well, also.”
Offensive support was aplenty as Fresno State commits Zach Presno and Quentin Selma homered, and Selma, Jamal O’Guinn, Chris Lopez and Alex Peralta doubled.
In addition, shortstop O’Guinn – only a junior, yet another Bulldogs commit – third baseman Selma and second baseman J.T. Arruda – yes, another bound for Cedar and Shaw – were typically exceptional on defense.