Clovis News: Sports

Head-to-head counts in preps

There was a little uncertainty in the voice of Clovis High baseball coach James Patrick Saturday afternoon: "I guess playing those games counts."

Remove the guessing game because there was no question the impact head-to-head results in early nonleague contests had on Central Section baseball seedings Saturday.

Seedings by section commissioner Jim Crichlow and three area commissioners were also determined in softball and volleyball. Playoffs in all three sports will begin next week.

The most glaring example of head-to-head influence involved Patrick's Cougars, who were seeded third behind No. 1 Buchanan and No. 2 Clovis West in a Tri-River Athletic Conference sweep of the top spots in Division I.

Bermuda grass had hardly even begun to shed its dormancy -- way back on Feb. 24 -- when host Clovis swept Stockdale 10-4, 6-5.

And, while Crichlow emphasized head-to-head results represent but one point of a five-part criteria, there's no denying the value of beating a strong nonleague opponent.

The Cougars' sweep, combined with the might of the TRAC -- which had three teams ranked in the state's top 20 for most of the season -- caused a domino effect that left TRAC coaches pleased while drawing mixed reaction from others in D-I.

Consider:

*Stockdale, the defending D-I champion, 23-5 and runaway titlist of the Southwest Yosemite League, not only was stuck with a No. 4 seed, the Mustangs were pinned with a quarterfinal opener against league rival Centennial, which won the 2007 D-I crown.

"Can't complain," Stockdale coach Dan Lemon said. "I can't justify anything above a 4 [seed] for us. Clovis plays in a great league, against great competition and they beat us."

Lemon, however, was "shocked" about being paired with Centennial: "They're very good. Thankfully, we play at home."

*Liberty, which blew away the Southeast Yosemite League -- but was swept by Centennial out of conference -- was seeded No. 6. Worse, the Patriots, while playing at home, will confront the TRAC's Madera and three-year ace Haden Hinkle in a Wednesday opener.

*Bullard, which continued its ownership of the North Yosemite League with a 14-1 record, was slapped with a No. 8 seed and a home opener against the TRAC's Clovis East. Further, the Knights were even placed behind No. 7 Central, which finished fourth in the TRAC at 5-10.

Then, again, Bullard -- one year after cleaning up the CMAC, but seeded ninth -- has gone 1-6 against TRAC competition.

Knights coach Chad Thornhill would have been tickled with a No. 5 seed, and not surprised with a No. 6 or 7: "We get no favors -- never have."

Examples of head-to-head leverage flowed through other divisions as well in baseball.

In D-II, El Diamante lost its final three regular-season games while limping to the West Yosemite League title.

Edison, meanwhile, won 16 of its last 21 after a 2-6 start -- and lost only to Bullard in the CMAC -- while positioning itself for D-II's top seed.

But El Diamante and Edison went 1-2 in the seeding, a decision no doubt influenced by the Miners' 6-3 win over the Tigers in the Clovis Coca-Cola Classic on March 10.

Fresno blew through the North Yosemite League at 14-1, yet was seeded third behind No. 1 Clovis North and No. 2 Hanford in D-III.

Clovis North finished 7-8 and in third place in the CMAC, but beat Fresno 4-2 on March 12. Hanford placed second in the West Yosemite League, but defeated Fresno 3-1 five days earlier.

Seeds say no repeats

Not one returning champion in baseball and softball earned a top seed.

In addition to Buchanan, El Diamante and Clovis North in baseball, No. 1s went to Kingsburg (D-IV), Liberty-Madera Ranchos (D-V) and Orange Cove (new D-VI).

And, in softball, top seeds went to Bullard (D-I), Tulare Western (D-II), Golden Valley (D-III), Wasco (D-IV), Riverdale (D-V) and Laton (D-VI).

Tiny Riverdale (574 enrollment) represents a refreshing new face atop D-V -- won for the past three years by Fowler.

But it was in D-IV that questions arose.

Wasco tied Tehachapi for the South Sequoia League title. And Washington somehow plucked a No. 2 seed despite finishing second in the North Sequoia League to Kerman, which is seeded fourth.

"Shocked," said coach Denise Rich of Washington, which is seeking its first softball title in school history. "After we lost [1-0 to Yosemite Friday], I thought we'd easily drop to a 4 or 5. But maybe it was because we played a stronger schedule than Kerman, I don't know."

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