Sports

Plenty at stake at Fresno State this weekend in section championships. What to watch for

Strong pitching by Alec Flores propels Sanger to Central Section Division II championship

Sanger High scored three runs in the first inning and Alec Flores tossed a three-hitter and 10 strikeouts in a 5-0 victory over Fresno in a Central Section Division II baseball semifinal.
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Sanger High scored three runs in the first inning and Alec Flores tossed a three-hitter and 10 strikeouts in a 5-0 victory over Fresno in a Central Section Division II baseball semifinal.

There is plenty of intrigue in this weekend’s Central Section baseball and softball championships, which for the first time both take place at Fresno State.

The last baseball game for Clovis High coach James Patrick in a 34-year career, for instance. A return to the softball final after a long absence for Bullard. And a college preview for Sanger pitcher Jake Harrell, who’ll be back at Beiden Field playing baseball for the Bulldogs next season.

Here’s a look at what’s at stake besides a championship, keying on Fresno/Visalia area teams with notable statistics provided by section historian Bob Barnett:

Division I

Baseball – No. 6-seeded Clovis found a way to pull out a 7-5 semifinal win over No. 2 San Luis Obispo after trailing most of the game.

He will go for his 10th section championship Saturday night in the final against No. 8 Frontier. The Cougars are looking for their ninth title, while Frontier is seeking its third.

Patrick’s record is 755-272-3 in two seasons at San Joaquin Memorial (1983-1984) and 32 at Clovis (1988-2019).

Softball – No. 5 Bullard last won a section championship in 2003 when the Knights defeated Centennial 1-0 in the Yosemite Small School championship. Bullard coach Jaime Maxey has led her Knights to two section titles and has a 416-178 record.

They face No. 3 Stockdale on Friday night at Margie Wright Diamond.

Division II

Baseball – No. 2 Sanger will face County/Metro Athletic Conference foe No. 1 San Joaquin Memorial on Friday night.

The Apaches blanked Fresno 5-0 in a semifinal behind Alec Flores’ three-hitter with 10 strikeouts.

Sanger advanced to the championship for the first time since 1953 when the Apaches were runners-up in the Sequoia Division, losing to Exeter 6-3. Sanger’s last section title came in 1955 – a 4-1 victory over Exeter.

The Panthers are the defending champions seeking their ninth title overall.

Softball – No. 2 Hanford and No. 1 Kingsburg will meet and both teams are seeking titles for the first time in several seasons.

Hanford has five section titles, the last in 2016. Kingsburg totaled six titles and last won a title in 2013.

Division III

Softball – No. 1 Dinuba is seeking its second section title and the first since 2016 when the Emperors defeated Sierra 2-0. No. 2 Templeton has seven section titles.

Division IV

Baseball – No. 7 Chowchilla hoisted the section title in 2008 after defeating Kingsburg 7-0. The Tribe will be trying for their third title, while No. 5 Monache is seeking its second.

Softball – Sydney Kuma, who transferred to Washington Union after her junior volleyball season, has led the Pantthers to section titles this school year in volleyball and soccer. (The volleyball team added a state crown.) Now she leads the seventh-seeded Panthers against No. 4 Fowler in the softball final. The Panthers are going for their second title (they won their first in 2010) while Fowler has eight.

Division V

Baseball – Both No. 1 Minarest and No. 2 Liberty-Madera Ranchos are seeking their second titles. Liberty’s first came last year at the expense of Minarets, the Hawks beating the Mustangs 17-0 in the semifinals.

Softball – Could Caruthers be following the footsteps of the girls basketball team? The Blue Raiders haven’t won a section title since 2014, but might be leaning on Anna Marshall, Malia Ishii and Paige Sterling for title hopes. Caruthers has two titles while No. 3 Kern Valley has one.

Division VI

Softball – No. 2 Central Valley Christian last won a title in 1998. No. 5 Foothill has no titles.

First responders

Central San Joaquin Valley first-responders will throw out the first pitch at baseball and softball championship games this weekend. And all first-responders will get in free.

National anthem to be played

Softball event coordinator Bob Kayajanian of the Central Section admitted last season’s national anthem snafu was a mistake on his part when it was announced that the Star Spangled Banner would not be played before the Division I final.

Those in attendance at Margie Wright Diamond followed with a loud chorus of boos, then patriotic crowd stood up and began singing the anthem a cappella.

This time, the national anthem will be played before every softball championship, Kayajanian said.

Section commissioner Jim Crichlow said the anthem will be played before each baseball game, too.

CENTRAL SECTION BASEBALL AND CHAMPIONSHIPS AT FRESNO STATE

Tickets: $10 adults, $8 seniors and students. All seats will be general admission

Baseball at Beiden Field

Friday

Division V — Minarets vs. Liberty-Madera Ranchos, 4:30 p.m.

Division II — San Joaquin Memorial vs. Sanger, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Division IV — Chowchilla vs. Monache, 9:30 a.m.

Division III — Atascadero vs. Highland, 12:30 p.m.

Division VI — Foothill vs. Bishop, 4:30 p.m.

Division I — Clovis vs. Frontier, 7:30 p.m.

Softball at Margie Wright Diamond

Friday

Division V — Foothill vs. Central Valley Christian, 5 p.m.

Division I — Bullard vs. Stockdale, 30 minutes after Division V

Saturday

Division IV — Washington Union vs. Fowler, 9:30 a.m.

Division III — Dinuba vs. Templeton, 30 minutes after first game

Division V — Caruthers vs. Kern Valley, 5 p.m.

Division II — Kingsburg vs. Hanford, 30 minutes after Division V

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