Clovis News: Sports

Buss, Karch carry Eagles baseball over Knights

This time, Bullard High's big first-inning lead on the road against a top seed didn't hold up -- not even close -- in the Central Section Division I baseball quarterfinals.

"There was a difference," Knights coach Chad Thornhill said following his eighth-seeded team's 9-3 loss to Clovis West on Thursday, a year after conquering Buchanan 10-9.

First, Thornhill said, "Against Buchanan, we kept battling and putting up more numbers. You can't do it in the first inning and expect to sit on it against a great team like Clovis West."

And, second, he added, "They are a dramatically different team than when we saw them earlier in the year."

That speaks mightily for the Golden Eagles, who scored nine runs in the bottom of the seventh on March 9 to stun Bullard 11-10 to improve to 6-1 at the time.

Thursday, Clovis West -- ranked No. 1 in the section, No. 2 in the state and No. 7 nationally -- received a home run, double, four RBIs and key defensive play from center fielder Connor Buss, and a final six innings of shutout pitching from unbeaten Eric Karch while improving to a school-record 28-3.

"They are playing confidently," Thornhill said, "their at bats are aggressive, they're disciplined and they compete -- they really compete."

Now son competes against dad -- again.

The Eagles will remain at home Tuesday in a probable night game to play No. 4 Clovis, which scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh to shock two-year reigning champion Stockdale 8-7.

The semifinal will match Kevin Patrick against his father, Clovis coach James Patrick.

The son's 77-17 record in three seasons with the Eagles includes a 7-4 mark against dad. But, counting Kevin Patrick's stops at Madera and Reedley, the family series is tied, 8-8.

"I think we're past that," the son said. "Now we're just two good teams getting after it. And I'm sure they're going to have a lot of momentum going into that game."

Bullard (18-12) did after the top of the first inning Thursday.

Opposing a 10-0 pitcher in Karch, the Knights received a two-run homer from Jordan Thomason and an RBI single from Kyle Cantu among five hits for a 3-0 lead.

But Buss prevented further damage by throwing out a runner at the plate in the inning. And it was the senior's RBI double in the third and no-doubt, three-run homer in the fourth that thrust the Eagles into command.

"We fight back pretty good, so I wasn't worried at all," he said. "But we've got to finish it out. This game doesn't mean anything if we don't finish out the last two."

Now the call for Kevin Patrick: Come back with the Pepperdine-bound Karch on four days' rest or go with his No. 2, Michael Isom (7-1)?

"I'll sleep on it," Patrick said. "I feel really good about both of our starters."

"It's up to them," Karch said. "Isom has stepped up big for us. Him or me, we'll get the job done."