Clovis News: Sports

Clovis West, Buchanan to play for D-I baseball title

That top seeds Clovis West and Buchanan highs each won Tuesday to advance to Thursday's Central Section Division I baseball championship isn't unusual.

How they got there is -- and through a steady, late-May rain, no less.

In a late-afternoon game at Buchanan, the No. 2 Bears overcame an early 3-0 deficit, and received five innings of three-hit relief from Steven Lozier and Shota Runge's two-out RBI single in the eighth inning to defeat No. 3 Centennial 7-6.

Then, in a night game at Clovis West, No. 4 Clovis scored three times in the seventh and had two runners on before Eric Karch slammed the door on the Cougars for the second year in a row in the semifinals as the No. 1 Golden Eagles escaped 7-6.

This sets up Thursday's title game at Clovis West's Stan Bledsoe Field, probably at 4:30 p.m.

Clovis Unified schools typically play each other under the lights, but Buchanan coach Tom Donald, after a couple of hours of thought following his game Tuesday, said he would rather play at the normal 4:30 p.m. starting time established by the section's California Interscholastic Federation office.

Clovis West (29-3), ranked No. 2 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 8 nationally by Baseball America, will turn once again to Pepperdine-bound Karch (11-0) against Buchanan's Seth Moranda (7-3), a junior who already has won 20 games in his career.

"I want the ball, there's no doubt about it," said Karch, who has beaten the Bears twice.

The Eagles defeated Buchanan three times in all while winning the Tri-River Athletic Conference with a 13-2 record.

Clovis West has reached the D-I title game for the sixth time in seven years. But the Eagles have won it only once, beating Fresno High in 2004. They lost at home to Buchanan consecutively in 2005-06, and also to Centennial in '07 and Stockdale last year.

This will be Buchanan's sixth championship appearance in 12 years under coach Donald. The Bears lost consecutively to Clovis in 2001-03.

Clovis West had not only beaten Clovis three times this season, they had dominated the Cougars -- 7-0, 9-2 and 8-3.

"Beating a good team four times is tough, and that was proven tonight," said Eagles coach Kevin Patrick, who defeated his father, Clovis coach James Patrick, for the eighth time in 12 games in a three-year Clovis West career that has soared to 80-17.

But the Eagles appeared in trouble against Clovis junior Jimmy Jurado, trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the fifth.

But it was then that Clovis West appeared to catch a break on a close play at second base that would have ended the inning with no scoring.

The Eagles seized the opportunity and scored five times on two-out hits by Nick McAllaster, James Bitter and John Koretoff. An outfield error on Koretoff's bases-loaded single scored two runs.

Then the Cougars (17-13), trailing 7-3, scored three times in the seventh on a walk, Ryan Massey's single, Kenneth Eckert's second RBI double of the game, an error and a groundout.

Karch, who hit a two-run homer in the first, closed the game with two runners on, inducing a flyout and groundout.

Earlier, at Buchanan, Runge's line single to center came on the 130th pitch by Centennial junior left-hander Grant Watson (7-3), who had thrown a complete game in the Golden Hawks' 4-3 quarterfinal win against Madera.

Jeff Brown had singled with one out before a groundout and intentional walk to Moranda set the stage for Runge, who had been robbed in the sixth inning by Joe Riddle's over-the-shoulder catch at the right-field wall.