Clovis News: Sports

Bullard baseball tries to revive magic

Bullard High baseball, once the hunted, has become the hunter.

This involves not the County/Metro Athletic Conference, which the Knights have won four straight times while going 50-1; rather, it's about the Central Section playoffs.

Only Bullard won at least one section large schools title in each decade from the 1970s through the '90s.

The Knights captured six crowns in all during that span while also having four of the teams finish No. 1 in Cal-Hi Sports state rankings under former coach Mike Noakes, for whom the program's varsity field is named.

Noakes has been gone since the 2002 season. With him went the Bullard dynasty, if it hadn't already been fading.

Not only have the Knights failed to climb back onto the Division I throne this decade, they've experienced insults.

Last year, they went 12-0 in the CMAC, yet were seeded ninth in the D-I playoffs, from which they were immediately ousted, 4-2, by Madera in the quarterfinals.

This year, they went 14-1 in the CMAC, yet are seeded eighth entering Wednesday's opener at home against No. 9 Clovis East.

Bullard coach Chad Thornhill said it doesn't matter that the Timberwolves represent the Tri-River Athletic Conference.

"The battle is with us," he said. "If we're solid on the mound and defensively, we'll compete in every game. I don't think it matters who's in the other dugout."

He'd probably get an argument in the Knights' community.

The Knights are 1-6 against the TRAC this season in their latest struggle in a decade that has seen them chase flourishing D-I powers from Clovis Unified to Bakersfield.

Clovis (three), Centennial (two), Buchanan (two), Clovis West (one) and Stockdale (one) have won the D-I titles in this decade.

Bullard, meanwhile, remains in pursuit of restoring its magic.

Thornhill, as a shortstop, contributed to the Knights' climb to the mountain top in the late '80s.

"I would like to think we have the same talent," the fourth-year coach said. "But I don't think we now have the same family turnover in the Bullard area. A lot of young Fresno families have migrated to the north and northeast.

"I do think we're in the right direction in re-establishing and reconnecting with the lower levels, from Cal Ripken to middle schools. And we've noticed a surge in camp numbers, which, hopefully, will send us back to where we want to be. It's still attainable."

Bullard (19-10) will confront Clovis East (14-17) with a team hitting .324, boasts one of the area's top middle infield combinations in shortstop Aaron Weimer and Chuey Telesco and has settled on the mound behind junior right-hander Matt Meyer (5-1, 2.02 ERA), who will start Wednesday.

Leadoff hitting Telesco (.304, 34 runs) has been a consistent table-setter for Nos. 3-4 sluggers Blake Dunn (.447, 32 RBIs) and Weimer (.418, 30 RBIs).

Division I: Top-seeded Buchanan (24-4-1) will learn if sophomore Seth Moranda (10-1) can sustain his dominance in the postseason.

No. 2 Clovis West (26-4) will likely get back sophomore catcher and leading hitter John Koretoff (concussion). And defending champion and fourth-seeded Stockdale (23-5) may have the section's premier player in K.C. Hobson (.488, 13 HRs, 47 RBIs; 6-1, 1.91 ERA).

Division II: Respectable on the mound and fleet afoot behind pro prospect Marquise Cooper (.479, 31 steals), No. 2 Edison (18-11) has the goods to capture the school's first section baseball title.

Division III: Can top-seeded Clovis North (21-9) run the table with only sophomores and freshmen?

Division IV: How will it end for senior Andrew Rich of second-seeded Washington? His 178 hits are five short of the section career record by Centennial graduate Joe Ramirez. And Rich also has 34 career pitching wins.

The Panthers have a first-round bye, meaning they could play a maximum of three playoff games.

Division V: Is it really possible for three-year reigning champion Fowler, as a No. 5 seed, to sneak up on anybody?

Division VI: Not much resistance in a five-team bracket for top-seeded Orange Cove (16-12).