Grant Gambrell – simply looking like a professional pitcher in a pro venue Tuesday night – threw a five-hitter and kept Buchanan High School in wire-to-wire command after a three-run first inning as the Bears repeated their Central Section Division I title with a 4-0 victory against Clovis North at Rawhide Ballpark.
Gambrell, an Oregon State signee and a focus of professional organizations, carried an 11-0 record and an 0.77 ERA into the game at the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Class-A affiliate.
And he’s never been better in the All-Tri-River Athletic Conference duel before a crowd of 2,500.
Clocking up to 94 mph with his fastball from the first inning to the seventh, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound right-hander struck out 10 as Buchanan closed one of the most dominant seasons in the history of section baseball that began in 1915, according to historian Bob Barnett.
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Five years after going 30-2 and finishing top-ranked nationally by ESPN RISE, the Bears (30-1) have similar honors apparently locked up again after beating the Broncos for the third time in four games.
Buchanan entered a game that began at 92 degrees No. 1 nationally in USA Today’s Super 25 Computer rankings, No. 2 nationally in CBS MaxPreps Xcellent rankings and No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports.
Cal-Hi editor Mark Tennis attended the game and said it had implications for State Sports School of the Year, State Baseball Player of the Year – Gambrell being the obvious candidate – and State Baseball Team of the Year.
Also present at the game was Barnett, who said Buchanan also became only the 11th team in section annals to win a section title with one or no losses.
The others, according to his records: Fresno (1915, 8-0), Fresno (1927, 10-0), Kingsburg (1929, 11-0), Roosevelt (1936, 17-1), Bakersfield (1952, 18-1), Woodlake (1956, 13-1), Bullard (1977, 31-1-1), Bullard (1988, 29-1) and Templeton (2004, 22-1).
Bears coach Tom Donald, in winning his sixth section championship in 12 years, said his players weren’t thinking national rankings glory as they arrived in Visalia: “They weren’t playing for what was on the line; they were playing for this game. We didn’t talk about the other until after the game. I will remember this ’16 team as grinders.”
The state’s No. 4 Clovis North (24-7-1) and starting pitcher Michael Williams were in deep trouble out of the gate.
The Bears, swinging with authority on every cut, loaded the bases with one out on J.T. Arruda’s walk, Quentin Selma’s single and Gambrell’s walk.
Zach Presno followed with a line-drive, two-run double to left on a 1-2 count and Chris Lopez added a sacrifice fly for the 3-0 lead.
And consider: What were the chances Clovis North could rally against a pitcher who had given up but seven earned runs and an astonishing 23 hits in 64 innings coming in?
The Broncos loaded the bases in the third on two walks and a hit batsman with two outs, but Gambrell got Jacob Boele to ground back to the mound.
Then, in the seventh, after Gambrell struck out two to begin the inning, Joey Toles and Matt Fraizer singled.
Noah Haupt then grounded sharply, but perhaps to the worst choice of defensive targets in the section – Arruda.
One of four Buchanan players committed to Fresno State, the second baseman moved quickly to his right, fielded the ball and tagged second to force Arizona-bound Fraizer to end it.
Buchanan 4, Clovis North 0
Clovis North (24-7-1) 000 000 0 -- 0 5 1
Buchanan (30-1) 301 000 x -- 4 8 0
WP: Grant Gambrell (12-0, CG, 12Ks, 2BB). LP: Michael Williams (8-3). CN, Matt Fraizer 2-3. B, Quentin Selma 1-2, 2R; Zach Presno 2-3, 2B, 2RBI.