Clovis News: Sports

Buchanan High baseball powers past Bullard

Buchanan High's 9-2 victory against Bullard on Friday will be remembered mainly for Jeff Brown's grand slam and Seth Moranda's two home runs and five scoreless innings of relief for his 32nd career victory.

But who's to say a sensational defensive play by Buchanan second baseman Shota Runge didn't change for good the complexion of the Central Section Division I baseball quarterfinal.

"Unbelievable play, a game-changer in a lot of ways," coach Tom Donald said of Buchanan (28-2), which is top-ranked in the section, state and nation.

Two years after the Knights jumped on the Bears early en route to a 10-9 upset, a sequel appeared to be developing.

A single by Jonathan Farino and wall-banging doubles by Aaron Simms and Savea Sefo off unbeaten pitcher Dominic Topoozian gave No. 8-seeded Bullard (16-14) a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Topoozian, who arrived with a 10-0 record and 0.77 ERA, then recorded a strikeout, setting a two-out stage for Kyle Cantu.

The senior catcher grounded what appeared to be a sure RBI single to center field when Runge ranged far to his right, slid to field the ball, popped up and fired a bullet to first to end the inning.

And, actually, it wasn't "unbelievable" at all in the Buchanan dugout.

"Shota makes those plays all of the time," Brown said. "I wasn't surprised."

Added Donald of the senior also hitting .426: "He makes that play because he practices at game speed. He's having a monster year, but you wouldn't know it if you asked him. ... He's not a show pony; he's that mule that works and works and works."

Runge is surrounded by similar skill on a team that will remain home to play Clovis (23-8) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the semifinals. The fourth-seeded Cougars, 0-3 against Buchanan in Tri-River Athletic Conference play this season, won 8-4 at home against Clovis West.

"From the top of the order to the bottom to their bench, they're very talented," Bullard coach Chad Thornhill said of Buchanan. "And when you have guys like Seth Moranda and Brown leading the charge, I mean, they're big-time."

And the Bears are tougher than ever now with the return of Jordan Luplow, a 2010 Bee All-Star who has delivered four hits in his two games back; and with Moranda apparently rediscovering his batting stroke in late May after hitting less than .300 all season.

They'll remain teammates at Fresno State next year.

"It's been a struggle," said Moranda, "but get back on track in the playoffs and I'll be good."

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