The Clovis and Central high softball teams – who waged four fierce battles last season for tournament, league and section titles – will be on opposite sides of the bracket for the Clovis Easter Classic.
The tournament – which launches Saturday and concludes Monday at the Buchanan High Softball Complex – has been trimmed in size and duration, but will feature 10 of The Bee’s Central Section Top 15.
“The tournament will be a good indication of where teams are in our Valley, and who to look for down the stretch,” Clovis coach Mike Noel said. “The winner each year is someone pretty prevalent in the Valley title race.”
Headlining the 16-team tournament are defending section Division I champ and top-ranked Clovis (7-1) and reigning Clovis Easter Classic champion and No. 2 Central (7-0).
The Grizzlies beat the Cougars last season 4-2 in the Classic final and 3-2 in the first round of Tri-River Athletic Conference play. Clovis returned the favor with a 3-0 win in the TRAC second round that led to a league title and a 2-0 victory over Central for the section D-I championship.
The field also features No. 3 Madera, No. 4 Buchanan, No. 5 Bullard, No. 6 Clovis East, No. 8 Hanford West, No. 11 Clovis West, No. 12 Clovis North and No. 14 El Diamante, as well as Liberty-Madera Ranchos (top ranked in D-III), Orange Cove (No. 1 in D-VI), Redwood (last season’s D-II runner-up), Edison, Hanford and Lemoore.
The tournament has been downsized from a 20-team, three-day event because of section rules limiting the number of games softball and baseball teams can play.
A 28-game regular-season limit has replaced the former system of 20 contact points that saw teams charged a point for single games or doubleheaders and two for tournaments, no matter how many games they played. Clovis, for instance, played 39 games last season while going 33-6. The Cougars would play no more than 31 this season if they advance as far as the section final.
To compensate for fewer guaranteed games in the tournament (now four instead of five), the Classic has increased game times from 1 hour, 40 minutes to 2 hours, which should allow most to go a full seven innings.
“Sometimes it’s been frustrating to only get four innings in and know there’s still a lot of game to play,” Central coach Scott Gorton said. “This will press the depth of each team’s pitching staff.”
Tulare/Tulare Western, Kerman and Fowler also host Easter Week tournaments.
High school softball rankings
1. Clovis (7-1)
2. Central (7-0)
3. Madera (9-1)
4. Buchanan (6-1)
5. Bullard (4-4)
6. Clovis East (7-3)
7. Frontier (7-5)
8. Hanford West (6-5)
9. Liberty-Bakersfield (8-2-1)
10. Stockdale (5-4)
11. Clovis West (2-3-1)
12. Clovis North (3-4)
13. Centennial (4-6)
14. El Diamante (7-3)
15. Monache (10-1)
Division I: 1. Clovis; 2. Central; 3. Buchanan
Division II: 1. Madera; 2. El Diamante; 3. Monache
Division III: 1. Liberty-Madera Ranchos (6-0); 2. Taft (7-1); 3. Tehachapi (6-1)
Division IV: 1. Chowchilla (11-2); 2. Mission Oak (7-2-1); 3. Dinuba (4-1-1)
Division V: 1. Riverdale (6-2); 2. Coalinga (6-2); 3. Firebaugh (6-3)
Division VI: 1. Orange Cove (6-1); 2. Farmersville (5-3); 3. Parlier (4-3)
CLOVIS EASTER CLASSIC
At Buchanan High softball complex
Field 1: 9 a.m., Redwood vs. Clovis North; 11:30 a.m., Buchanan vs. Edison;
Field 2: 9 a.m., Clovis vs. Orange Cove; 11:30 p.m., Clovis East vs. Liberty-Madera Ranchos
Field 3: 9 a.m., Hanford West vs. Madera; 11:30 a.m., Clovis West vs. El Diamante
Field 4: 9 a.m., Hanford vs. Bullard; 11:30 a.m., Lemoore vs. Central
Fields 1-4: bracket play games at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Pool A: Tulare, Mt. Whitney, Golden West, Memorial, Sanger
Pool B: Tulare Western, Dinuba, Liberty-Bakersfield, Kingsburg, Farmersville
Tulare 1: 9 a.m., Tulare vs. Golden West; 11 a.m. Tulare vs. Memorial; 2 p.m., Golden West vs. Sanger; 4 p.m., Mt. Whitney vs. Golden West
Tulare 2: 9 a.m., Memorial vs. Sanger; 11 a.m., Sanger vs. Mt. Whitney; 2 p.m., Memorial vs. Mt. Whitney; 4 p.m., Tulare vs. Sanger
Tulare Western 1: 9 a.m., Tulare Western vs. Farmersville; 11 a.m., Tulare Western vs. Dinuba; 2 p.m., Tulare Western vs. Liberty-Bakersfield; 4 p.m., Farmersville vs. Liberty-Bakersfield
Tulare Western 2: Liberty-Bakersfielld vs. Dinuba; 11 a.m., Liberty-Bakersfield vs. Kingsburg; Farmersville vs. Kingsburg; 4 p.m.., Dinuba vs. Kingsburg
FOWLER EASTER CLASSIC
Pool A: Washington, Woodlake, Fowler, Lindsay
Pool B: Caruthers, Sierra Pacific, Firebaugh, Chowchilla
Marshall Field: 8:30 a.m., Firebaugh vs. Caruthers; 10:30 a.m., Woodlake vs. Washington; 12:30 p.m., Chowchilla vs. Firebaugh; 2:30 p.m., Lindsay vs. Woodlake; 4:30 p.m., Caruthers vs. Sierra Pacific; 6:30 p.m., Fowler vs. Lindsay
KERMAN EASTER CLASSIC
Varsity field: 8:30 a.m., Kerman vs. McLane; 10:30 a.m., Sunnyside vs. Strathmore; 12:30 p.m., Kerman vs. Mendota; 2:30 p.m., Reedley vs. Riverdale; 4:30 p.m., Corcoran vs. Dos Palos; 6:30 p.m., Reedley vs. Tranquillity
JV field: 8:30 a.m., Coalinga vs. Sunnyside; 10:30 a.m., McLane vs. Mendota; 12:30 p.m., Coalinga vs. Strathmore; 2:30 p.m., Madera South vs. Corcoran; 4:30 p.m., Riverdale vs. Tranquillity; 6:30 p.m., Madera South vs. Dos Palos