Thursday night could be major tuneup for Fresno Grizzlies’ Mike Kickham

Yes, Mike Kickham is still scheduled to be on the mound Thursday for the Fresno Grizzlies in their 7:05 p.m. series finale against the Oklahoma City RedHawks at Chukchansi Park.

But next week, who knows.

The 24-year-old left-hander is a leading candidate to fill the vacancy in the San Francisco Giants’ starting rotation created by Ryan Vogelsong’s broken pinky.

After tonight, Kickham’s next scheduled start would be Tuesday. Interestingly, that’s the same day the Giants will need another starter. So that part fits.

Also, Kickham has been pitching well lately. After a rocky April in which he struggled to throw his 93-94 mph fastball for strikes, Kickham has produced four straight quality starts.

Earlier this week in the Grizzlies clubhouse, I asked Kickham if Thursday’s start would come with any extra pressure. He seemed genuinely nonplussed.

“You always want to think about yourself pitching in the majors and you go out there every start to showcase what you’ve got,” Kickham said. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and not let some situation get in my head.”

Here are some facts and figures, courtesy of Grizzlies PR man extraordinaire Chris Kutz:

*** Over his last 4 starts, Kickham is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 25 strikeouts against 6 walks.

*** His 50 strikeouts this season are tied for 5th in the Pacific Coast League.

*** His has won two straight starts. He has never won three consecutive starts in his career.

Kickham began the season as the No. 5 rated prospect in the Giants’ farm system, according to Baseball America. His opponent tonight, RH Jarred Cosart, is No. 7 in the Houston Astros chain. So it’s a good matchup tonight at The Chuk.

MW baseball: San Diego State breezes past Air Force 15-6

The Mountain West Tournament could not have started much better for the Air Force, with first baseman Seth Kline drilling a two-run home run in the top first inning to get the last-place team in the conference a quick lead. But it didn’t take long before the Falcons took a predictable turn … it was the bottom half of the inning.

San Diego State took advantage of three errors – two on one play – to capture the lead and went on to a sloppy 15-6 victory in the first of two games on Wednesday at Beiden Field.

The No. 3-seeded Aztecs (27-28) will play No. 2 UNLV on Thursday at 3 p.m., while Air Force (15-38) will play in an elimination game at 11 a.m. against the loser of the game between Fresno State and Nevada.

In that first inning, Jake Romanski reached on a one-out fielding error by Air Force shortstop Matt Thorne. Tim Zier followed with a single to center and both runners moved up a base when Falcons’ starter Steven Trojan fired a wild pitch, low and away.

Ryan Muno then singled to right, driving in Romanski, and Falcons started throwing the ball all over the diamond and Zier and Munro ended up scoring.

San Diego State added four runs in the third, the big blow a two-run single by John Spirk. And it added four more in the sixth, three coming on a bases-loaded double by Muno.

Zier had four hits for the Aztecs, the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 spots in the lineup a combined 9 for 13 with six runs scored and seven RBI.

Phillip Walby went eight innings for the Aztecs, allowing nine hits and five earned runs.

San Diego State Coach Tony Gwynn, after the victory.


Prep baseball playoff notes

A shoulder strain has removed Jake Gatewood from Clovis’ pitching rotation — or even bullpen — in the Division I baseball playoffs.

Clovis High junior star pitcher/infielder/center fielder Jake Gatewood, who was just selected for the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game, has a strain in his right (throwing) shoulder, meaning he’s “probably out of the question for the rest of the playoffs,” Cougars coach James Patrick says.

Gatewood, as a result, didn’t even play defense as a designated hitter in Clovis’ 3-2, nine-inning win over Centennial in Friday’s Central Section Division I quarterfinals.

Patrick says junior right-hander McCarthy Tatum (10-2, 2.22 ERA) will pitch Wednesday in the third-seeded Cougars’ semifinal at No. 2 Clovis North at 6:30. The winner will advance to Friday’s championship to play either No. 1 Buchanan or No. 4 Stockdale. The host Bears, the Tri-River Athletic Conference champions, and Mustangs of the Southwest Yosemite League play Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.

The Clovis-Clovis North game matches Patrick against his son, Chris. Pops is 3-2 against him since the Clovis Unified programs began playing each other in 2011. That’s when the Broncos graduated their first senior class, and they went 0-3 against the Cougars that year, meaning they’ve gone 4-2 against Clovis the past two seasons.

More on the Patricks: Combined — with James (108-54), Chris (109-48) and brother Kevin (121-40) of Clovis West — they are 338-142 (.705%) since Clovis North began playing varisty baseball in 2009.

The rest of today’s section baseball playoffs:

Division II: No. 3 Western at No. 2 Madera, No. 5 Redwood at No. 1 Memorial.

Division III: No. 13 Madera South at No. 9 Tehachapi, No. 3 Sanger at No. 2 Golden West.

Division IV: No. 3 Bakersfield Christian at No. 2 Fowler; No. 4 Selma at No. 1 Kerman.

Division V: No. 3 Exeter at No. 2 Firebaugh; No. 4 Immanuel at No. 1 Caruthers.

Division VI: No. 3 Sierra Pacific at No. 1 Minarets (championship).

Bulldogs’ Judge, Mariscal and Quinn earn all-conference honors

Fresno State center fielder Aaron Judge, who is leading the Bulldogs in every major statistical category and is likely to be a first-round pick next month in the MLB first-year player draft, has been selected first-team All-Mountain West Conference.

Fresno State center fielder Aaron Judge was selected first-team All-Mountain West Conference. He leads the ‘Dogs with 11 home runs.

Sophomore shortstop Chris Mariscal and right-handed pitcher Blake Quinn were selected to the second-team, and Quinn shared freshman of the year honors with New Mexico’s Sam Haggerty.

Judge is hitting .373 going into the MW Tournament – the Bulldogs play Nevada on Wednesday at Beiden Field in the first round, the first-pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. He also leads the ‘Dogs with 72 hits including 15 doubles, four triples, 11 home runs and 35 RBI. He hit a home run last week against Nevada that traveled close to 500 feet, almost reaching the fence along Cedar Avenue.

Mariscal, a Clovis North graduate, is hitting .302 this season with 61 hits including 12 doubles and two home runs.

Quinn, who is starting against Nevada on Wednesday, has been one of the top pitchers in the conference over the past month-plus. The former Bullard High ace is 2-2 over his past six starts, but has allowed only 34 hits and nine earned runs over 35 2/3 innings. His ERA in those six games is 2.27.

Robbie Rouse on the move again, waived by Cleveland Browns

Robbie Rouse turns the corner on a Cal defender to score a touchdown in Fresno State’s 2012 season-opener at Candlestick Park.

Robbie Rouse, the all-time rushing leader in Fresno State history with 4,647 yards, is learning life in the NFL isn’t easy.

The 5-foot-6 running back was waived by the Cleveland Browns on Tuesday, not even two weeks after he was signed as an undrafted free agent.

Rouse was a first-team all-Mountain West Conference selection as a senior, helping lead the Bulldogs to their first conference championship since 1999. He averaged 114.6 yards per game, third best in the conference, and also  had 1,925 all-purpose yards to rank second.



B’nai B’rith wrapup: Bullard winner Ali Teliha and others honored in 62nd event

Bullard’s Ali Teliha on Monday night became the school’s first B’nai B’rith winner in 25 years. She’ll run cross country and track and field and study medicine at St. Mary’s.

Bullard High’s Alexandra “Ali” Teliha, who likes to surf, rode a wave of emotion unlike any in her 18 years Monday night upon receiving the B’nai B’rith Student-Athlete Award at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Building.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m standing up here,” she gushed to a crowd of 500 after being announced as the winner by Rod Kraft, who received the award in 1973 out of McLane.

Kraft would become a doctor. And that’s the career planned by Teliha, who became Bullard’s first winner since Michele Lewis in 1988 while receiving a $2,500 scholarship in a 62nd annual award judged on athletic ability (65%), academics (25%), school and community activities (5%) and citizenship (5%).

The remaining 15 B’nai B’rith nominees each received $500 scholarships. And they included Clovis West’s Nwanneka “Nikki” Okwelogu (4.32), Buchanan’s Cody Brazeal (4.31) and Clovis’ Hannah Harvey (4.30), who received additional Irving Negin Academic Awards for highest grade-point averages.

Teliha, a school valedictorian, has a 4.27 GPA and combination athletic/academic scholarship to St. Mary’s, where she’ll run cross country and track and field. She was also offered scholarships by Cal Poly and Westmont.

She’s earned 11 varsity letters in cross country (four), track and field (four), tennis (two) and soccer (one), and is the third-fastest 1,600-meter runner in Central Section history (4 minutes, 49.73 seconds).

She placed second in Saturday’s section Masters Championships 1,600 (4:57.44), qualifying her for the CIF State Track and Field Championships May 31-June 1 at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“This definitely tops the highlights,” she afterward. “I mean, this isn’t just like winning a race, breaking a record or scoring high on a test; this is a renown award and it tops anything I’ve done. I’ve put in a lot of time and hard work, but I can’t believe I’m getting this award out of all the candidates. I feel extremely honored.”

Other B’nai B’rith nominees recognized: Brian Chongtoua, Clovis East; Alex Fung, Sunnyside; Cesar Garcia, Roosevelt; Brian Gomez, Washington; Jake Harper, Sanger; Connor Kennedy, Clovis North; Emerson Kirk, Memorial; Joshua Martin, Fresno; L.J. Moore, Central; Njeri Omawahleh, Edison; Nick Peterson, Hoover; Carlos Vargas, McLane.

Clovis’ Jake Gatewood headed to Wrigley Field for All-America baseball game in August

Clovis junior has been selected to the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game Aug. 24 at Wrigley Field.

Clovis High junior Jake Gatewood has been selected to the the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game, which will feature 36 of the nation’s best underclassmen Aug. 24 at Wrigley Field.

The 1:30 p.m. (CST) game will be televised nationally on MLB Network.

Players are selected by a committee from the Baseball Factory, which develops programs nationally to help groom baseball players.

Gatewood is a 6-foot-4, 190-pounder shortstop/pitcher/outfielder who has committed to USC.

He’s hitting .320 and is 5-1 with a 2.02 earned-run average for the Cougars (24-8), who will play at Clovis North (25-6) Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in a Central Section Division I semifinal.

The winner will play either Stockdale or Buchanan Friday in the championship.

“Jacob is a tall, athletic infielder who has demonstrated big power at the plate,” said Steve Bernhardt, chairman of the Under Armour All-America Game selection committee. “He has a loose swing with bat speed and leverage, allowing him to drive the ball to all parts of the park. With a knack for making the game look easy, he will be fun to watch at Wrigley Field this summer.”

In the past five years, 118 of the 138 draft eligible players from the Under Armour All-America Game were selected in the MLB Amateur Draft, including 34 first-round picks.

Clovis East’s Beekman pulls historical double in section Masters track and field

Clovis East’s Brad Beekman pulled a 94-year first in the Central Section Masters Track and Field Championships by winning the pole vault (15-1) and discus (170-0).

Clovis East High senior Brad Beekman delivered an unprecedented sweep in the 94-year history of the Central Section track and field finals Saturday at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Not only did Beekman attempt a rare triple — pole vault, discus and shot put — he actually won two of them.

He left with gold medals in the pole vault (15 feet, 1 inch) and discus (170-0). And never before in a meet launched in 1915 has that winning double been accomplished.

Beekman placed 14th in the shot put at 45-04 1/2. He arrived with a season best of 48-10 1/2.

He’ll take personal bests of 15-6 in the pole vault and 172-2 in the discus into the CIF State Championships May 31 and June 1 at Buchanan.

Last year, in the section Masters, Beekman placed second in the pole vault (15-3) and fourth in the discus (159-6).

Clovis East extended its reign as the section’s most dominant boys pole vault program in the past eight years by going 1-2-3 in Saturday’s Masters with Beekman, Louie Pancotti (14-10) and Dalton Welch (14-4).

The Timberwolves also produced section champions in 2009 with Michael Peterson (15-4), ’07 with Jacob Mersino (15-0) and ’06 and ’05 with Andrew Pancotti.

Game times set for Fresno State home games – Aug. 29 opener vs. Rutgers will kickoff at 7 p.m.

Fresno State announced the game times for its six home football games, with three to kickoff at 7 p.m. including the Aug. 29 opener against Rutgers.

The Bulldogs, coming off a Mountain West Conference championship season, will play Cal Poly on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. The Sept. 20 game against Boise State, which is to be televised by ESPN, will start at 6 p.m. The Oct. 19 game against UNLV will kick off at 7 p.m. And the last two games, Nov. 2 against Nevada and Nov. 23 against New Mexico, will start at 4 p.m.

All games are subject to chnage per agreements with the national television carriers in the Mountain West TV package.


Bulldogs’ Jordan Brink earns second MW pitcher of the week award

Fresno State sophomore Jordan Brink has been selected as the Mountain West Conference pitcher of the week after firing six innings of one-hit, one-run ball in the Bulldogs’ 2-1 victory over Nevada in 10 innings on Thursday, the first of what turned out to be a three-game sweep.

Brink, a Central High grad, entered the game in the fifth inning, after left-hander Tyler Linehan had opened with four scoreless innings. He struck out eight batters, three coming in the ninth inning. It is his second pitcher of the week honor this season – the first came following a 5-3 victory over Air Force in which he struck out a career-high 12 batters.

Fresno State opens the MW Tournament against Nevada on Wednesday at Beiden Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.