Clovis North’s Christian Rossi makes his call: It’s Cal State Fullerton for baseball

Clovis North multisport star Christian Rossi makes his call: It’s Cal State Fullerton for baseball.

Clovis North High’s Christian Rossi, with college options — and in multiple sports — has made his choice: It’s Cal State Fullerton for baseball.

“It took him a long time to make his decision,” says Rick Rossi, the senior’s father. “A lot of people are calling. He just wanted to get it done so he can enjoy the rest of the year.”

Rick Rossi says his son — The Bee’s Player of the Year in football as a quarterback last fall as a senior and a Bee All-Star as a shortstop last spring as a junior — made a recent baseball recruiting visit to Fullerton, which has been pursuing him “for a long time.”

The Titans of the Big West Conference are currently 20-3, ranked No. 8 in the country, have made 21 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and have won four national titles.

Rick Rossi says his son intends on signing a letter of intent with Fullerton April 10.

Titans coach Rick Vanderhook has already signed Bullard catcher Niko Pacheco, The Bee’s Player of the Year in baseball as a junior last spring.

Rick Rossi says “it wasn’t an easy decision” for his son, whom he says had college choices in football and baseball.

And, yet another option figures to be on the table for Christian Rossi, a 6-foot-2, 195-pounder, who is expected to be selected in the June Major League baseball amateur draft.

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Fresno State football spring scrimmage notes: Northern opens up another position battle on O-line

Head coach Tim DeRuyter, top, talks to his team following Fresno State football team’s Spring Game held at Bulldog Stadium on Saturday, March 23, 2013. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

The interior offensive line is fluid, but it was expected to be at this point. Fresno State, looking to replace starting center Richard Helepiko and left guard Matt Hunt, had some options to explore this spring with more coming in this fall and line coach Cameron Norcross is making concessions to make sure he gets a look at those bigger, longer, linemen, most notably guard Sean Rubalcava from Cerritos College.

A proponent of finding his five best linemen and putting them to work, developing continuity and a confidence across the line, Norcross in the fall will get Rubalcava some reps right away with the No. 1 group to get a gauge where he is coming in and how quickly he can assimilate the Bulldogs’ schemes and calls up front. ‘’He’s a guy that we’re going to have to do that for,’’ he said.

But exiting spring practice, the right tackle spot also is wide open, which was not expected. Justin Northern, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound redshirt sophomore, made it that way. And that would be the case whether or not returning starter Alex Fifita had not missed the last week-plus with a hamstring injury.

‘’Alex coming (into the spring) was a clear-cut favorite, but it didn’t finish that way,’’ Norcross said. ‘’They’re going to finish head-to-head or Justin may be a little head because Alex has been hurt and Justin took the opportunity he got and ran with it.

‘’He didn’t back down and step away and concede to Alex. He said, ‘No, I’m going to take this opportunity, I’m going to take this starting job’ and I love that attitude. I was proud of him that way.’’

Northern didn’t have the best spring in the position group, but Norcross said he had made the most improvement coming off a solid offseason.

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Sakaguchi places 5th at NCAA D-I Wrestling Championships

Oregon State junior Scott Sakaguchi earned his highest career finish at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, placing fifth at 149 pounds Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.

The seventh-seeded Sakaguchi concluded his second straight All-American season with a victory, edging Missouri’s unseeded Drake Houdashelt 6-5 in the fifth-place match. He placed seventh at 149s last season.

Sakaguchi (30-8) opened the day with a shot at placing third, but dropped a 4-2 decision to Columbia’s fifth-seeded Steve Santos in the consolation semifinals. Santos went on to finish third.

A California high school champion at 145 pounds for Clovis in 2009, Sakaguchi has a three-year college career record of 94-28.

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.

Bulldogs get their Mountain West Conference championship rings

Fresno State safety Derron Smith shows off his Mountain West division championship ring he, along with the rest of the team, received at the annual awards banquet March 22, 2013. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

The Fresno State Bulldogs received their Mountain West Conference championship rings on Friday at their annual awards banquet; big, bright numbers with a Bulldog logo prominently featured in the middle. ‘’They’re blingy,’’ Coach Tim DeRuyter said, with a smile.

Running back Robbie Rouse, who set the all-time school record for rushing yards, was honored as the team’s most valuable player, and linebackers Tristan Okpalaugo, Shawn Plummer and Jeremiah Toma, punter Andrew Shapiro, quarterback Derek Carr, strong safety Phillip Thomas, running back Josh Quezada and defensive end Matt Akers also won individual awards.

Akers, a senior who had started all 13 games in 2011 as an undersized defensive end, lost his chance to play much less start when the Bulldogs switched to a 3-4 from the 4-3, spent the last half of the season preparing true freshman Alex Fifita to start week to week at right tackle and was honored as the defensive scout team player of the year. ‘’He had as big a role in us winning those last five of the regular season as anyone did,’’ offensive line coach Cameron Norcross said.

Akers in practice went at Fifita on every rep – he was working with the first and second teams to get as much work as possible – using his quickness to get the freshman used to the speed of the game.

‘’I think it’s quite a testament to his character,’’ DeRuyter said. ‘’A senior who was a former starter … scheme switches, coaches change, a lot of times those guys go south and become problems in the locker room. He was a guy that really pushed Alex Fifita to get better and I don’t know that Alex would have been good enough to start for us a year ago if it weren’t for Matt Akers.

‘’To me, he’s the essence of what a team guy is – ‘I may not get the glory of playing on Saturday, but I’m going to make our team as good as possible.’ For him to earn that award, I think it speaks volumes.’’

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San Francisco Giants’ roster moves ‘bode well’ for Noonan

The Grizzlies’ Nick Noonan throws out a Omaha baserunner at first on May 12, 2012. (JOHN WALKER/THE FRESNO BEE)

Nick Noonan reestablished himself  last season with the Fresno Grizzlies. Now the 23-year-old infielder is getting another chance to break camp with the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants released veteran infielder Wilson Valdez Friday (along with reliever Ramon Ramirez) and brought back Noonan from their minor-league camp after optioning him to Triple-A Fresno on March 15. He’s in the lineup playing third base in today’s Cactus League game.

In fact, Noonan is the only healthy backup infield option left in camp. (Besides Joaquin Arias, who is assured of a roster spot.) Free-agent pickup Tony Abreu has been dealing with a leg injury all spring and the Giants reassigned Japanese import Kensuke Tanaka, who was struggling defensively, to Triple-A Fresno on Thursday.

Speaking with the team’s beat writers in Scottsdale, Ariz., Giants vice president Bobby Evans hinted that Noonan could be the favorite.

“We’ll continue to look at him,” Evans told CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly. “It does bode well for (Noonan) if Abreu can’t get healthy.”

It’s also possible the Giants could sign an infielder off the waiver wire or as other teams trim their rosters before Opening Day.

(What about Brock Bond, who was hitting .435 when he reassigned to Fresno? Bond got called up for a split-squad game  Tuesday and suffered an abdominal strain. Terrible timing.)

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Fresno State spring practice report: Smith out, Dean back in doghouse

Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter talks with receiver Victor Dean during a game last season. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

The Bulldogs went through their final football practice of the spring Friday, a short workout in helmets and shorts. With the spring game on Saturday, they were on the field for about 75 minutes.

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Wide out Victor Dean, who has had some maturity issues in his time at Fresno State, has done a little backsliding over the past week or so. He was held out of practice and afterward had to barrel-roll the length of the field, which can’t be a whole lot of fun.

‘’Victor has got some things he has to take care of,’’ coach Tim DeRuyter said. ‘’Right now he’s not being very accountable, so he has to earn his trust back. He’s slipping right now.’’

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Free safety Derron Smith also did not practice. He was out with a sprained right ankle, suffered playing pickup basketball on Thursday night. He had the foot and ankle in a protective boot.

Smith will not participate in the spring game.

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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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