Imminent: Death, taxes and Tony Amundsen hired by Clovis North

Bullard boys basketball coach Tony Amundsen will be approved as Clovis North’s coach Wednesday by the Clovis Unified school board.

Tony Amundsen will be approved as Clovis North’s boys basketball coach Wednesday by the Clovis Unified school board in a high-profile switch that’s become as given as it is comical, really.

Unless, of course, you’re associated with Bullard’s program, which is taking a hit unlike any in school history in regard to coaches.

Consider my exchange Friday night with Clovis North athletic director Eric Swain at the state track and field meet at Buchanan:

Me: “So, Eric, is the Amundsen hire official?”

Swain (smiling): “The forwarded candidate will be approved Wednesday by the board.”

Me (laughing with the most rhetorical question of my 40-year reporting career): “So, who’s the ‘forwarded candidate?’”

Swain (laughing): “Cmon, buddy.”

And away goes Amundsen, who made that intention clear two weeks ago, when he told The Bee he wanted the Clovis North job because of an “overwhelming factor” — his family of five lives in that school’s attendance area. Further, that his oldest child, fifth-grader Cadee, will be on campus with him in the fall of 2014 at the Clovis North Educational Center, which combines Granite Ridge Intermediate and the high school in northeast Fresno at International and Willow Avenues.

What an enormous blow for not only Bullard, but the County/Metro Athletic Conference and Fresno Unified School District as well.

Understand this: A typical tenured teacher/coach in the district makes about $75,000.

Amundsen is worth double that, if not more, considering the following his teams have drawn from home to road to Selland Arena in a 119-38, five-year career with three consecutive Division I titles at the school.

There’s no doubt Bullard, a melting pot for basketball talent not only within its attendance area but Fresno Unified (see transfers), will replace Amundsen with a quality coach.

But, as Knights athletic director Doug Finks says, “You can’t bottle lightening.”

And Amundsen brought serious thunder and lightening to a program that not long ago could hosted a card game (one table, 10 players) at its home  games.

Past couple years? Routine turnaway crowds of around 1,500.

“Tony has created a Bullard community phenomenon,” Finks says. “What he’s done transcends basketball.”

Central Section’s Area boys tennis tournament set seeds

Bullard High’s Viran Batth and the Clovis West team of Patrick Huls and Michael Sasso were giving the No. 1 seeds in singles and doubles, respectively, for the North Area individual boys tennis tournament.

The event, set for Friday and Saturday at Buchanan, is one of three area tournaments that will advance four automatic qualifiers in both singles and doubles to the Central Section Individual Championships. Each area tournament will also produce four singles and doubles wild cards, with four of those 12 total wild cards being selected for the 16-player/team fields for the section championships, scheduled for May 17-18 at Wasco.

The top eight singles seeds — including No. 2 Allen Wang of Buchanan, No. 3 Zain Amro of Buchanan, No. 4 Alex Tecescu of Clovis North, No. 5 Jayke Ancheta of Clovis West, No. 6 Lincoln Hoppe of Bullard, No. 7 Dhillon Chongtoua and No. 8 Gaston Villanueva of Liberty-Madera Ranchos — all have first-round byes.

Doubles seeds No. 2 Andy Vang-Omar Hernandez of Clovis East, No. 3 Ben Liang-Josh Comes of Buchanan, No. 4 Alex Corgiat-Teddy Apler of Bullard, No. 5 Pao Vang-Brian Chongtoua of Clovis East, No. 6 Weston Shipstead- Alex Julian of Bullard, No. 7 Jarrett Tajima-Daniel Garcia of Central and No. 8 Parker Ellis-Willis Pesl of Clovis also have opening-round byes.

Action starts at 2 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday.

In the Central Area, Central Valley Christian’s Andrew Gong and Monache’s Rocky Phaphol and Matt Ecobiza were given the top singles and doubles seeds for a tournament scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Visalia. Doubles matches are at Redwood on Friday and Golden West on Saturday. Singles matches both days are at Golden West. Action starts at 2 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday.

Other singles seeds include No. 2 Bailey Gong of CVC, No. 3 Evan Morritse of Redwood, No. 4 Raymond Lee of Hanford West, No. 5 Juan Carlos Silva of Golden West, No. 6 Sam Orozco of Monache, No. 7 Giacoma Catalina of Porterville and No. 8 Chris Popa of Sanger.

The other doubles seeds are: No. 2 Patrick Smith-Edsel Antunez of Selma, No. 3 Connor Bennett-Robert Cardenas of Sanger, No. 4 Jared Lavinder-Spencer Jones of Mt. Whitney, No. 5 Jason Alonzo-David Ivancovich of Monache, No. 6 Ryan Leasure-Robert Yang of Hanford West, No. 7 Winston Thao-Luciano Moreno of Granite Hills and No. 8 Andres Villarreal-Cooper Short of Sanger.

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.

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.

Bullard/Fresno girls rugby team seeks players; youth event set for Saturday

The Central California Youth Rugby Foundation is seeking high school-age girls in the Fresno/Clovis/Sanger area for its Bullard/Fresno team.

Bullard/Fresno recently played its first Varsity Gold Division game, a 75-5 loss to Amazons of Sacramento.

Details: coach Patrick Quan, (559) 360-0182.

Also, the Bullard Rugby Club is hosting the area’s first youth matches Saturday, with competition in the under-10, under-12 and under-14 age divisions.

Matches start at 11 a.m. at Holman Park, 6522 N. West Ave. in Fresno.

Bullard Youth Rugby Match flyer

 

Bullard’s Pacheco, Central’s Rodriguez earn Grizzlies Hot Stove awards

Central’s Rachel Rodriguez. (GARY KAZANJIAN/THE FRESNO BEE)

Niko Pacheco of Bullard and Rachel Rodriguez from Central will be honored Thursday as the prep baseball and softball players of the year at the Fresno Grizzlies’ 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove Gala.

The Kerman baseball squad is the team of the year and the Lions’ Jay Preuss is coach of the year.

The Al Radka Award winner also will be announced during the Hot Stove Gala at the Fresno Convention Center in downtown Fresno. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

The gala features  guest speakers Ryan Vogelsong of the San Francisco Giants and former Fresno State star Doug Fister of the Detroit Tigers.

As juniors last spring, Pacheco and Rodriguez helped lead their respective teams to Central Section D-I titles. Preuss’ Kerman team won the D-IV baseball title.

Tough choice looms for D-I girls soccer seeding

Bullard’s Erin Banda, right, tries to skirt by Sanger’s Amber Rodriguez in their girls soccer match at Sanger High on Jan. 31, 2013. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

Interesting decisions loom Saturday when Central Section soccer playoff seedings are announced, particularly in Division I for the girls.

I’m curious to see which school is anointed the top seed by section commissioner Jim Crichlow and his crew, at least as things stand at this moment.

Bullard (16-3-1) and Central (20-4) appear to be the top two contenders. The Knights and Grizzlies have split two head-to-head showdowns, with Central winning the last matchup 2-1. Bullard won the first 2-0.

The Knights have already secured no worse than a tie for the County/Metro Athletic Conference title. Central will at least win a share of the Tri-River Athletic Conference crown if it beats Clovis North and Clovis East this week.

 

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Fresno’s Paul Islas drafted by MLS’s Chivas USA

Fresno Pacific University’s Paul Islas, right, has a shot blocked by Cal State Stanislaus’ Carlos Gavino, left, in a game Thursday night, August 30, 2012, in Fresno. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

Paul Islas — who honed his skills locally with the California Odyssey Soccer Club, Bullard High, Fresno Pacific and the Fresno Fuego — was selected Tuesday by Chivas USA with the 19th pick of Major League Soccer’s Supplemental Draft.

Islas, 21, is expected to report to the Carson-based Chivas USA’s training camp this week.

“This is my shot and I can’t let anything get in my way,” Islas said in a Fresno Pacific-issued news release. “I just have to go down and take care business.”

Islas is coming off a 22-goal, 12-assist senior season at Fresno Pacific, where he wasn named an NSCAA Division II All-American. He finished his four-year career as the Sunbirds’ third-leading career goal scorer (55) and assist maker (33).

“I think some people will look at it and say he comes from a smaller school, a smaller area and it’s hard to argue that,” Chivas USA Director of Soccer Operations Kevin Esparza said. “But the top goal scorer in the MLS this past year is a player that came from a Division II school. We will take a gamble and I am looking forward to watching Paul prove everybody wrong.” Read more →