Clovis News: Sports

Buchanan grabs D-I baseball crown

If Seth Moranda wasn't the forgotten star of Central Section baseball, he had surely fallen off the marquee.

But that was before he rediscovered his dominance for 6 1/3 innings Thursday when it really mattered.

"He found his groove, and it was lights out after that," Buchanan High teammate Steven Lozier said of Moranda, who peeled himself off the grass at Stan Bledsoe Field, shackled top-seeded Clovis West and allowed the No. 2 Bears the opportunity to rally for a 7-5 victory in the Central Section Division I championship before a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 3,000.

Lozier, who missed nearly half the season with a back injury, and Jason Gonzalez, a part-time player with only 35 at-bats coming in, hit three-run homers off Eric Karch (11-1) in Buchanan's first win over the nation's eighth-ranked team in four games this season.

But most responsible was Moranda (8-3), taking the same mound that brother Steven mastered while beating Clovis West 2-0 for the D-I title four years ago.

This time, Seth Moranda gave up three hits and one unearned run while striking out 11 in those final 61/3 innings for the 28-5 Bears. And what a startling reversal that was for a junior right-hander who was shelled for four runs and five hits, including three wall-ringing doubles, among the first seven batters he faced.

Further, that was a frightening reminder for a pitcher who was 10-1 for a top-seeded team when he gave up eight runs in the first three innings in a 10-9 loss to Bullard in last year's quarterfinals.

Even this season, while contributing well as a pitcher, shortstop and leadoff hitter, there were some rough moments for Moranda as Drew Merlo -- a junior varsity pitcher a year ago -- earned the team's leading pitcher role and a 12-1 record.

Meanwhile, Dean Moranda said, "a little doubt" had developed in his son's mind.

"I'm not sure he ever forgot about the Bullard game," the father said.

But all that was shoved into history in the final six innings Thursday as Seth Moranda found command of all three pitches while calming a Golden Eagles outfit that arrived with a school-record 29-3 mark and .337 team batting average.

"The first inning scared me a little bit, but I got it back together, threw strikes and hit my spots," said Moranda, who has made an early commitment to Cal State Fullerton.

Thursday's championship culminated a whirlwind 10 days for Buchanan coach Tom Donald, who traveled back East to watch his son, Jason, make his major league debut for the Cleveland Indians; returned to Clovis for the Bears' semifinal win Tuesday over Centennial; and then drove to Southern California to attend daughter Katie's graduation at Long Beach State on Wednesday before returning for the game.

And it was played 16 years to the day the coach was diagnosed with cancer.