Sakaguchi becomes two-time NCAA D-I wrestling All-American

Oregon State’s Scott Sakaguchi (Clovis High) has reached the consolation semifinals of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, assuring himself All-American status.

Oregon State’s Scott Sakaguchi (Clovis High) became a two-time All-American on Friday in Des Moines, Iowa, at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.

Today, the former Clovis High standout aims for as high as a third-place finish to conclude his junior season.

The seventh-seeded Sakaguchi (28-7) avenged an early season loss to eighth-seeded Nick Brascetta of Virginia Tech with an 8-5 decision to reach the consolation semifinals. Sakaguchi will wrestle fifth-seeded Steve Santos of Columbia today for a berth in the third-place match opposite the winner of Minnesota’s sixth-seeded Dylan Ness and Missouri’s Drake Houdashelt.

Sakaguchi opened the day in the championship bracket, but dropped a 2-1 decision to Pac-12 rival and second-seeded Jason Chamberlain of Boise State in the quarterfinals. Chamberlain also beat Sakaguchi 3-1 in overtime at the Pac-12 finals.

But Sakaguchi bounced back with a 2-1 decision over Binghamton’s Donald Vinson to secure no worse than a top-eight finish and All-America status.

Sakaguchi, a 2009 state champion while at Clovis, placed seventh at 149 pounds at the NCAA’s last year.

Columbia’s Stephen West (Buchanan), meanwhile was knocked out of the 172-pound bracket with a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh’s Nick Bonaccorsi. West finishes his senior season 24-9.

Power-hitting duo leads Selma into Kerman Easter Softball Classic

Behind the slugging duo of Stephanie Cantu (.421, 2 HRs) and Emery Green (.417, 2 HRs), Selma High rides into the Kerman Easter Softball Classic with with a tournament-best 8-2 record.

The 14-team tournament — which starts Saturday and continues Monday and Tuesday — also includes host and defending champion Kerman, as well as Fresno, Coalinga, Sanger, Edison (tournament runner-up last year), Madera South, McLane, Riverdale, Sierra, Corcoran, Sunnyside, Tranquillity and Firebaugh.

The teams are grouped into pools, with Sanger, Coalinga, Sunnyside, Selma, Madera South, Edison and McLane in one, and Kerman, Sierra, Corcoran, Tranquillity, Firebaugh, Riverdale and Fresno in the other.

Saturday’s schedule:
10 a.m.: Coalinga vs. Sanger, Field 1; Edison vs. Madera South, F2; McLane vs. Selma, F3; Riverdale vs. Sierra, F4
12 p.m.: Corcoran vs. Fresno, F1; Sunnyside vs. Edison, F2; Madera South vs. Selma, F3; Riverdale vs. Tranquillity, F4
2 p.m.: Kerman vs. Sierra, F1; Fresno vs. Firebaugh, F2; McLane vs. Sanger, F3; Coalinga vs. Sunnyside, F4
4 p.m.: Kerman vs. Corcoran, F1; Firebaugh vs. Tranquillity, F2

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Central softball ace fires pefecto

Central’s Rachel Rodriguez pitched a perfect game in the Grizzlies’ 2-0 win over Bullard.

Central High’s Rachel Rodriguez pitched her first career seven-inning perfect game, stifling one of the better softball teams in the Central Section in the process.

The junior right-hander who has given an oral commitment to Boise State didn’t allow a ball out of the infield while striking out a career-high-tying 10 to lead The Bee’s No. 2-ranked Grizzlies over No. 5 Bullard on Thursday in a nonleague game.

With command of all her pitches, including an effective change-up, Rodriguez reached a three-ball count on only four hitters while firing Central’s first perfect game since Lindsey Clarkson’s against Clovis West in last season’s section Division I championship.

“She was just dominant from the beginning,” Grizzlies coach Scott Gorton said. “She threw to every location she wanted to.”

Central scored the only run Rodriguez would need in the top of the first, with pinch-runner Maryssa Kamimoto coming home from third on a double-steal with Jilee Schanda. Selena Ruiz singled in an insurance run in the fourth.

Bullard’s Claudia Puente was also sharp, pitching a two-hitter with six strikeouts.

Central, El Diamante top field for Clovis Easter Softball Classic

Rachel Rodriguez leads defending champion Central into the Clovis Easter Softball Classic

The past two Central Section Division I softball champions — Central and El Diamante highs — headline the the Clovis Easter Classic.

All of The Bee’s Central Section Top 10 are in the 23-team field for a tournament that starts Saturday at the Buchanan Softball Complex, including defending section champions in Hanford West (D-III) and Liberty-Madera Ranchos (D-V).

Pool A: Cesar Chavez, No. 7 Clovis, No. 9 Frontier, Hanford, Madera, Liberty-Madera Ranchos.
Pool B: No. 4 Buchanan, Clovis East, Dinuba, Hanford West, No. 6 Golden West, Reedley.
Pool C: No. 10 Centennial, No. 3 Clovis West, No. 1 El Diamante, Taft, Mt. Whitney, Memorial
Pool D: No. 5 Bullard, No. 2 Central, No. 7 Clovis North, Kingsburg, Lemoore.

Pool play begins Saturday and continues Monday with games on Fields’ 1-4 at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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Fowler softball tournament features pair of defending section champions

A pair of defending Central Section softball champions are among the 10-team field for the Fowler Easter Softball Classic, which starts Saturday and continues Monday and Tuesday.

Fowler, the Division IV champion last season, is one of five teams in the Andrea Duran Pool, joined by Dos Palos, Immanuel, Lindsay and Washington.

Sierra Pacific, the reigning D-VI champion, is in the Ray Garcia Pool that also features Caruthers, Chowchilla, Mendota and Woodlake.

Opening-day games include Chowchilla vs. Caruthers and Mendota vs. Woodlake at 9 a.m.; Sierra Pacific vs. Caruthers and Lindsay vs. Dos Palos at 10:45 a.m.; Fowler vs. Immanuel and Woodlake vs. Chowchilla at 12:30 p.m.; Sierra Pacific vs. Mendota and Washington vs. Lindsay at 2:15 p.m.; Dos Palos vs. Immanuel at 4 p.m. and Fowler vs. Washington at 5:45 p.m.

After a day off on Sunday, the tournament resumes with Woodlake vs. Sierra Pacific and Caruthers vs. Mendota at 9 a.m.; Fowler vs. Dos Palos and Immanuel vs. Washington at 10:45 a.m.; Caruthers vs. Woodlake and Sierra Pacific vs. Chowchilla at 12:30 p.m.; Washington vs. Dos Palos and Lindsay vs. Immanuel at 2:15 p.m.; Chowchilla vs. Mendota at 4 p.m. and Fowler vs. Lindsay at 5:45 p.m.

The top two teams in each pool advance to semifinals on Tuesday, with one starting at 10 a.m. and the other at 11:45 a.m. The third-place game is set for 3:30 p.m. and the championship at 5:30 p.m. at Marshall Field.

Stucker jumps to top of Bullard career softball HR list

Junior Claire Stucker is Bullard’s career softball home run leader with 12.

At a school that counts two past Cal-Hi Sports state players of the year and a current NCAA All-American among its alumni, junior Claire Stucker already stands alone as the greatest power hitter in Bullard High softball history.

Stucker clubbed her school-best 12th career home run Thursday in the Knights’ 10-7 victory over Clovis West that salvaged a nonleague doubleheader split.

That’s two more than Christine Thomsen — a second-team All-America pick for Utah State last season — hit for Bullard from 2005-2008.

Stucker opened the season tied for second in school history at nine with former UCLA great and current Clovis North coach Courtney Dale, the state Player of the Year in 1995. Bullard’s Marissa Marzan was the state POY in 2001.

Stucker tied Thomsen for first with a blast against Buchanan on Feb. 27 and set the record with a homer on March 4 against El Diamante. The Central Section career record of 32 was set by Corcoran’s Demi Walker (2007-2010), according to section historian Bob Barnett.

“I would definitely put her up against anyone I’ve coached or played with, and that’s close to 20 years,” said Bullard’s Jaime Maxey, who coached Thomsen and Marzan and played alongside Dale.

“As far as sheer power, she might have the most I’ve ever seen in high school. When I’m coaching third base, I get way up the line when she comes up because there’s no time to react. The ball screams off her bat.”

Stucker, who’s given an oral commitment to Mississippi State, will look to add to her total Saturday at the rain-interrupted Buchanan Preseason Tournament.

Bullard — ranked fifth in the section by The Bee — will face Hanford West at 1 p.m. (Field 2) and Kingsburg at 2:45 p.m. (Field 2) in the completion of a tournament that had six of 15 teams from the Division I bracket and six of 12 in D-II unable to return to the Buchanan Softball Complex on Friday.

No champion will be crowned.

Spears Southwest Tour headlines opener to 25-date season at Madera Speedway

A 25-date season at LoanMart Madera Speedway kicks off Saturday with the Spears Southwest Tour Melo’s Gas & Gear 151.

Defending series champion Derek Thorn headlines a field of stock car drivers that is also expected to include veteran Jim Pettit as well as up-and-comers Ross Strmiska, Jared Vorse, Jacob Gomes and Jason Gilbert.

The LunkerDaddy Late Models (led by defending champ Tony Schmitz), Legends of the Pacific, Toyota Sedans, SRL S2 Series and the 18 second Bracket race are the support classes.

Other highlights of Madera Speedway’s schedule include the Smokey Hanoian Classic on March 30, the Vukovich Classic on May 4, the Al Pombo Classic on June 8, the Gerhardt Classic on July 13 and the Harvest Classic on Sept. 13-14.

Tickets to Saturday’s race are $27 for adults, $23 for seniors and military, $17 for youth 6-12 and $75 for family packs (two adults, two youths). Kids 5-and-under are free. Grandstands open at 3 p.m. with qualifying starting at 3:30 p.m.

Details: tickets@racemadera.com or (559) 673-7223.

World of Outlaws’ doubleheader opens 13-date season at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway

Defending champion Donny Schatz, 20-time winner Steve Kinser and partially retired two-time king Jason Meyers of Clovis are all expected to be in the field Friday and Saturday for the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car series stop at Tulare Thunderbowl Raceway.

Meyers, who quit full-time racing with the Outlaws last season, captured the Trophy Cup last fall in Tulare and owns one career Outlaws win at the Thunderbowl.

Tim Kaeding, who drives the No. 83 car owned by Fresno’s Dennis Roth, will also be in the field for the show of the nation’s top 410 sprint car drivers. Kaeding won the Outlaws’ stop in Tulare last year.

The Outlaws doubleheader, with support from the USAC West Coast Sprinters both nights and the IMCA Modifieds on Friday, kicks off a 13-date season a Tulare’s one-third mile clay oval.

Highlights of the Thunderbowl’s season include a return of the USAC/CRA Non Wing 410s on may 18, the Chris and Brian Faria Memorial featuring the King of the West 410 sprints on May 25-26 and the 20th annual Trophy Cup on Oct. 17-19.

Tickets for this weekend’s shows are $40 for bleacher seating and $45 for the grandstands each night. Gates open at 4 p.m.

Details: (559) 688-0909.

Trio of Fresno-area wrestlers make NCAA Division I Championships field

Former Clovis High wrestler Scott Sakaguchi will be making his third straight appearance in the NCAA Division I Championships. He placed seventh at 149 pounds last season.

Former Fresno-area wrestling standouts Scott Sakaguchi, Stephen West and James Cook are in the field for the NCAA Division I Championships, scheduled for March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Oregon State junior Sakaguchi (Clovis High) is the seventh seed in the 149-pound bracket and opens against Buffalo’s Blake Roulo. Sakaguchi (24-6, nine falls) earned his third trip to the NCAA’s as the Pac-12 runner-up. He placed seventh at 149 pounds last season.

Columbia senior West (Buchanan) is unseeded at 174 pounds and faces Virginia’s Jonathan Fausey in the first round. West (23-7, seven falls) received an at-large bid and will be making his first appearance in the tournament.

Campbell sophomore Cook (Madera/Clovis West) is unseeded and takes on No. 10 seed Jacob Swarts of Boise State in his opener. Cook (8-8, four falls) became an unlikely NCAA qualifier when he won the Southern Conference Championship tournament as its seventh seed, beating the top three seeds en route to the title. Cook entered the conference tournament 5-8 on the season.

Also in the field is Cal State Bakersfield 174-pounder Bryce Hammond (Bakersfield).

The opening two rounds are set for March 21, the quarterfinals and semifinals are March 22 and the finals are March 23.

Opening-night action will be televised on ESPN3, the second night on ESPNU and the finals will be shown on ESPN.

49ers CEO Jed York to speak in Fresno

San Francisco 49ers’ CEO Jed York is scheduled to be the featured speaker at the Catholic Professional & Business Club of the Diocese of Fresno’s breakfast meeting April 12.

The meeting starts at 7:15 a.m. at Pardini’s, 2257 W. Shaw Ave.

(ASSOCIATED PRESS) San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York speaks at an October 2008 news conference at the team’s headquarters in Santa Clara.

York, the nephew former 49ers owner owner Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., became CEO in 2010. His promotion of Trent Baalke to general manager and the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as coach helped end San Francisco’s 10-year playoff hiatus in 2011.

York also secured the financing in 2011 and obtained $200 million in NFL support for the team’s new stadium that’s being built in Santa Clara.

Details: (559) 434-2722.