Clovis News: Sports

Edison makes baseball history

Kurt Rathjens pitched like Barry Zito in his prime, Edison High smashed the ball all over the yard and in the end -- history was made.

The second-seeded Tigers beat No. 10 Golden West 8-5 Friday and advanced to a playoff semifinal for the first time in the 85-year history of the program.

That's not a misprint, long-time Tigers coach Cliff Rold said.

Edison, on an eight-game winning streak, will host No. 3 Frontier on Wednesday for a berth in the Central Section Division II final.

With all the great athletes who have passed through baseball's doors at Edison High, it's almost shocking that this year's group has traveled the furthest in the playoffs.

"Pretty amazing, isn't it?" Rold said.

Not even the great Tigers teams of 1998-99 -- featuring Ricky Manning Jr. and pitchers Jon Asahina and Ryan Braun -- got past the quarterfinals. Manning Jr. went on to play defensive back in the NFL, Braun made the major leagues and Asahina reached Triple-A.

What the Tigers accomplished on their field Friday was expressed on each player's smiling face.

"It was our goal to make history this year, and we're getting closer," sophomore second baseman E.J. Lopez said.

Edison has a reputation for hitting and speed on the basepaths. The Tigers, with six players batting over .300, usually win slugfests. Nobody outside the program ever mentions pitching.

But Rathjens, a tall, lanky left-hander nicknamed Little Zito, turned in the premier performance of his career. Mixing a big hook curve with a slider and sneaky fastball, he threw a seven-hitter -- 125 pitches -- with nine strikeouts and didn't allow an earned run.

"It took me a few innings to find my rhythm, but I got in a groove," he said. "Usually I get taken out in the sixth. I've never thrown this many pitches. But when I train, I train to go nine innings."

Rold couldn't say enough about Rathjens and Kenny Travis Jr., who beat Monache 6-1 in the opening round.

"What people don't realize is that we may have two of the best pitchers in the Valley," Rold said. "We're in the CMAC, and the TRAC and Clovis schools get all the attention.

"Kurt is a high-quality pitcher. He won't overpower you, but he's got command of four pitches and control of all of them."

Edison committed three errors that led to all of Golden West's runs. The Tigers more than made up for it by smacking 13 hits -- six for extra bases.

Lopez went 3 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs. Skippy Ferreria had a double, triple and RBI. And Travis added two hits with an RBI.

Golden West scored two unearned runs in the first, and Edison answered with five hits and a three-spot in its half.

"Right off the bat, I knew we'd bounce back," Lopez said. "We've been doing it all year."

Lopez and Nickky Gonzales each drove in runs with hits in the third, and T.J. McDonald made it 6-3 in the fourth with an RBI single.

When the Trailblazers rallied within 6-5 on Brent Hall's three-run homer in the fifth, the Tigers gave Rathjens a three-run cushion in the sixth. Marquise Cooper ripped a two-out, ground-rule double, and Ferreria tripled to left-center. When the ball was misplayed, Ferreria kept pedaling and scored.

"I was just trying to go as far as I could," said Ferreria, restating Edison's playoff mantra.