Clovis News: Sports

City rallies past County in baseball all-star game

All of the best senior high school baseball players around -- recent professional draft picks Seth Moranda and Chris Mariscal included -- accepted the invitation to participate in the City/County All-Star game.

And the overwhelming response goes well beyond kids wanting to experience one final high school game.

The site -- Chukchansi Park, home of the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies -- has become a major drawing card since the game was moved from Fresno State's Beiden Field in 2006.

"For them to get to play in a facility like this, that's why they all want to do it," game organizer Merv Carter said. "The kids love it."

And the 65 players in uniform from central San Joaquin Valley towns ranging from Chowchilla to Coalinga put on an entertaining show Sunday night, with Edison's Nicolas Gonzales knocking home the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning as City rallied for an 11-8 victory.

Gonzales, a left-handed batter, sliced a double to left that scored Sunnyside's Anthony Neves and Memorial's Laz Villa to put City ahead 9-8.

"I was just looking fastball," Gonzales said. "That's what he gave me and I just went with it. It felt surreal. I had to pinch myself. Growing up in the Valley, you always see the [City/County] game in the paper. To play in it was an honor."

Clovis North's Michael Tittle followed Gonzales two batters later and delivered a two-run double of his own -- scoring Gonzales and Clovis' Taylor Temple -- to give City some insurance runs.

"My first at-bat was a little shaky because I hadn't played in a while," Tittle said. "Coach [Tom] Donald [of Buchanan] told me to see a ball in my zone. I did, and I drove it to the outside. This was such an awesome experience playing with all the guys I competed with for four years in high school. I really want to thank the Grizzlies for this."

Carter said it's a cooperative effort between City/County organizers, the Grizzlies, the City of Fresno and game sponsor the Fresno County Office of Education that has allowed the game to flourish at Chukchansi Park, where average attendance has been between 1,300-1,500. Attendance figures for Sunday's game were not immediately available.

"This venue is incredible," County coach Brad Fontes of Central said. "To see their eyes when they walked in from center field and see them look around. We had three or four guys leave the yard in [batting practice]. They will take that with them for the rest of their lives."

The lead changed hands five times, with County going ahead for the second time with a three-run fifth inning highlighted by an RBI double from Central's Seth Buchnoff and a sacrifice fly by Liberty-Madera Ranchos' Keith Avila.

But City pitchers Wilson Ashford of Clovis North, James Hicks of Clovis East, John Karch of Clovis West and Lucas DiCiccio of Memorial combined to shut out County over the final four innings, notching 10 strikeouts. DiCiccio, who had an RBI single in the first, struck out the side in the ninth.