Kemp, Labosky, Wheeless land top TRAC baseball honors

Buchanan junior center fielder Trenton Kemp shares the Tri-River Athletic Conference Player of the Year award with Clovis North junior pitcher/third baseman Jack Labosky.

Juniors Trenton Kemp of Buchanan and Jack Labosky of Clovis North shared the Tri-River Athletic Conference Player of the Year honor.

Clovis North’s Jack Labosky powered the Broncos to the Central Section D-I title.

League champion Buchanan also landed top honors with junior Pitcher of the Year Jack Wheeless and Coach of the Year Tom Donald.

Find me another league in the state, by the way, where Clovis’ Jake Gatewood (USC) makes second team and Clovis North’s Christian Rossi (Fullerton) is shut out.

Just sayin.

All-TRAC first team:

Buchanan: Colton Worthington, Connor Loeprich; Clovis: McCarthy Tatum, Logan Poisall, Alan Crowley; Clovis North: Daniel Gardner, Braden Frankfort; Clovis West: Marco Pierce, Christian Funk.

Second team:

Buchanan: Collin Winn, Kody Batesole; Clovis: Jacob Gatewood, R.J. Hartmann; Clovis North: Koby Cummings, Nick Perez; Central: Donovan Failla; Clovis East: Jarrett Kirby, Nathan Case; Clovis West: Jon Schafer.

Tuesday’s prep marquee: Buchanan @ Clovis boys volleyball; Fresno @ Hoover baseball; Clovis @ Buchanan baseball

Tuesday’s hottest prep tickets:

Buchanan at Clovis boys volleyball, 6:30 p.m.: Clovis is 8-0 atop the Tri-River Athletic Conference and 30-5 overall. Buchanan, two-year reigning Central Section champion, is 7-1 and 21-9. Cougars, who last won a section title in 2006, defeated the Bears 3-2 three weeks ago. Clovis had gone 0-11 against Buchanan the past four years. Each team will close TRAC play Thursday. Section playoffs begin next week.

Fresno at Hoover baseball, 3:30 p.m.: Fresno can clinch a tie for the North Yosemite League title with a win today. Warriors are 10-1 in the league and 16-8 overall; Patriots are 8-3 and 14-12-1. Fresno beat Hoover 5-1 on April 3. Each team has three league games remaining after Tuesday, including a rematch Friday at Fresno. Playoffs begin in two weeks.

Buchanan’s Jack Wheeless is 10-0 with an 0.78 ERA entering tonight’s start at home against Clovis. He’s already beaten the Cougars 1-0.

Clovis at Buchanan baseball, 6:30 p.m.: Top-ranked Buchanan is 10-1 atop the TRAC and 23-2-1 overall. No. 3 Clovis is in third at 7-4 and 19-7. No. 2 Clovis North is in second at 8-3 and 21-5. Buchanan defeated Clovis 1-0 behind Jack Wheeless four weeks ago. The junior left-hander is 10-0 with an 0.78 ERA entering Tuesday’s s start. Each team will have three TRAC games left after Tuesday, including another against each other Friday at Clovis.

The TRAC has positioned itself to land the top three teams (Buchanan, Clovis North and Clovis) for the D-I playoffs. Section seedings will be May 11 in commissioner Jim Crichlow’s office in Porterville.



Prep baseball: Buchanan’s Wheeless in spotlight, but don’t ignore Clovis West’s Marco Pierce

Buchanan’s Jack Wheeless has pitched consecutive no-hitters against Clovis East and Central entering his Tuesday night start at Clovis West.

The buzz, naturally, surrounds Buchanan High’s Jack Wheeless as he opposes Clovis West Tuesday night after throwing consecutive no-hitters against Central and Clovis East.

The junior left-hander will arrive for the 6:30 p.m. Tri-River Athletic Conference game at Stan Bledsoe Field with a 9-0 record, 0.37 earned-run average and having pitched 15 2/3 innings without giving up a hit.

A one-out, sixth-inning single to Clovis’ McCarthy Tatum on April 3 was the last hit Wheeless has surrendered.

Fine, but don’t forget about the other guy.

It was almost a year ago to the day — April 24, 2012 — that Clovis West’s Marco Pierce exploded onto the scene by delivering four innings of perfect relief in a 4-3 win at Buchanan.

Pierce, who had pitched only seven innings before that game, struck out nine, including the last eight batters he faced.

Seven months later, he was signed a substantial scholarship to play for the University of Oregon.

And, Tuesday night, the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder will take the ball in what promises to be a pitch-for-pitch duel with Wheeless.

Clovis West pitcher Marco Pierce, who will oppose Wheeless, has signed with the University of Oregon.

Pierce is 7-2 with a 2.40 ERA, and is 9-2 in two seasons, having struck out 91 with only 23 walks and 53 hits allowed in 72 1/3 innings.

The Golden Eagles’ cleanup batter is also hitting .338 this season with seven doubles, two home runs and 13 RBIs

“Marco’s having a great year,” Clovis West coach Kevin Patrick says, “and everytime he goes out, it’s been in pressure situations. I know he’ll focus on what he can control (against Buchanan). Maybe the pressure will be on (Wheeless).

“Obviously, Buchanan is a great rival, and rightfully so. Our kids are excited. They are starting to play at a higher level and with more confidence.”

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Jack Wheeless: 2 straight no-hitters and CW next target

Imagine being the pitching coach of the pitcher producing results rivaling the best in Central Section history.

Buchanan junior left-hander Jack Wheeless has pitched two consecutive no-hitters, is 9-0 and with an 0.37 ERA for the state’s seventh-ranked team.

OK, let’s be specific: Imagine being John Gross, the Buchanan High pitching coach for Jack Wheeless.

Gross broke it down to the simplest form after Wheeless, a junior left-hander, improved to 9-0 and an 0.37 earned-run average with his second consecutive no-hitter — a 6-0 Tri-River Athletic Conference win at Clovis East Tuesday night: “When a pitcher’s throwing three pitches for strikes, it’s a fun game to watch. Then it becomes a guessing game (for the hitters).”

Wheeless isn’t competing in an ordinary league.

Many, including Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis, regard the TRAC as arguably the finest in the state.

And Buchanan (20-2-1, 7-1), ranked No. 1 in the section and No. 7 in the state, leads the league by two games with seven remaining.

Wheeless, who also no-hit Central last week Tuesday in a 2-0 TRAC win, is one of seven players in section annals to pitch two straight no-hitters, section historian Bob Barnett says.

And only one — Selma’s Lloyd Allen, as a junior in 1967 — has thrown three in a row.

Wheeless will attempt to match Allen’s record next Tuesday in a 6:30 p.m. TRAC game at Clovis West.

“There’s a game that night?” Golden Eagles coach Kevin Patrick joked late Tuesday.

Wheeless will march into Stan Bledsoe Field with three consecutive shutouts and having given up only 26 hits in 57 innings for the season. He’s struck out 56 and walked 23.

Throwing primarily fastballs, plus a “dialed in” curveball and changeup, according to Gross, Wheeless struck out 11 against Clovis East, including the side in the seventh.

“I feel good, I feel great,” Wheeless says. “It’s awesome.”

Is there an explanation?

“I don’t know,” he says, “I’m doing the same thing since I was little — throw strikes, push through ’til the end and get it done.”

This isn’t as if Wheeless hasn’t got it done on the varsity level before, though not to this epic degree, of course.

Last year, while pitching behind seniors Dominic Topoozian and Holden Berger, he established himself against top-caliber competition as a sophomore — 5-2 with a 1.86 ERA and 60-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Buchanan coach Tom Donald and Gross emphasize two areas of Wheeless’ game — maturity and unflappable presence, in the dugout and on the bump.

Donald says: “He’s a pretty special player and it’s great to see his hard work paying off. He’s grown a lot. Last year, if he didn’t have his best stuff, he may not have pitched out of trouble. This year, he’s really turned the corner, mentally. I couldn’t be more happy and proud of that.”

Gross says: “He’s very relaxed, at ease, joking around in the dugout, and he takes it to the mound. He stays loose, and that helps him; he doesn’t sit there in the dugout and think about it too much, and that helps him.

“All his hard work is paying off. It’s a rare thing.”