Everything you need to know about D-I Central Section Baseball
Baseball is right around the corner as Austin Kemp breaks down the top teams and the players to watch in Division I.
The Clovis Cougars are the reigning Central Section D-I champs after rolling through the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. Chris Patrick takes over as head coach for dad James, the winningest baseball coach in Central Section history.
Preseason polls usually start with returning talent with experienced seniors. With a healthy combination of both, you’ll find your preseason number one team. Enter: Clovis High School. Clovis has a core of returning skill that helped bring the Cougars a section championship last season. With a projected lineup that could feature seven seniors—highlighted by senior pitcher Noah Beal and senior catcher Koby Kropf– Clovis is primed for another championship run.
However, the Cougars aren’t the only capable team in 2020.
Clovis West comes in with what should be one of the top pitching staffs in the state, making them Clovis Sports Report’s number two preseason team. Ace Noah Galvan and LHP Ixan Henderson both signed with Fresno State in the off season and will anchor the Golden Eagle’s lethal rotation.
There’s more. San Joaquin Memorial comes in as the “new kid on the block” with the Panthers joining Division I for the first time since 2015. Memorial is headed by a long and deep lineup which could lead to the best offense in the section. However, can they win when it matters at the D-I level? That question won’t be answered until May as they should roll through the CMAC. There is a load of talent on this squad and they should stay in the top five all year.
Clovis North? They’ll be in it until the end. In his third year at the varsity level, University of Arizona bound Riley Cooper will continue to dominate on the mound. The Broncos will have to figure out the offense, but they won’t need to score many runs with the arms they have. Nolan Inouye is one of the steadiest hitters in the Valley.
All Stockdale is going to do this season is stay out of the spotlight and win games. They do not travel into Clovis/Fresno at all this season, but don’t sleep on the Mustangs, the 2018 Central Section champs. Stockdale returns seven of their nine top hitters from a very young team in 2019 and will be a major factor come playoff time.
Then there’s Buchanan. The Bears lose almost their entire starting lineup from a season ago and have just four seniors on this year’s team. Senior pitcher and University of Oregon bound Isaac Ayon is undefeated in his Buchanan career and he’ll have to carry this team early on. There’s a lot of underclassmen on this roster, but don’t be fooled. There’s talent, but it will just be a matter of how fast these cubs grow up.
Stay tuned as the Clovis Sports Report will be releasing in-depth, individual team previews next week.
Clovis Sports Report official Division I preseason Top 10
- Clovis West
- Clovis North
- Clovis East
On the bubble: Bullard, Frontier, Redwood, San Luis Obispo, Centennial, Tulare Western, Paso Robles
1. Clovis West – Noah Galvan, Ixan Henderson, Art Navarette, and Erik Budd are as much as you could ask for at a public school. Galvan and Henderson can both run it up to 90MPH and have both signed with Fresno State. Navarette ended last year with 5 saves while Budd posted a 2.48 ERA in 39.1 IP.
2. Clovis North – Left hander Riley Cooper is as seasoned as they come and he’ll be joined by Ryan O’Hara and left-hander Caden Larsen. O’Hara and Larsen looked good in valuable innings last year. Buchanan transfer Luke Sula will challenge for innings.
3. Clovis – The Cougars have three proven, senior arms in Noah Beal, Ian Mortensen, and Miles Henderson. Beal, a UNLV signee, is primed for a huge year as the ace and expect Mortensen to be the No. 2. Henderson proved to be a capable closer down the stretch in 2019.
Honorable mention – Buchanan, Memorial, Clovis East
1. Memorial – Speed and power fill this lineup wherever you look. Seniors Mac Dalena, Tyler Davis, and Joey Bell would make any lineup among the best in the section. Then add juniors Eddie Saldivar and Tanner Sagouspe. Additionally, Mikey Bell hit .350 as a freshman. Scoring won’t be an issue.
2. Stockdale – Hit .318 as a team last year and Mustangs return 7 of their 9 top hitters from that squad. Speed is the name of the game for the Mustangs.
3. Liberty – Unlike their counterpart Stockdale, Liberty relies more on the long ball. The Patriots ended last year with a .364 team batting average and four of the top seven hitters from that team are back in 2020. Those four returners combined for 20 HRs last year.
Honorable mention – Clovis, Clovis North, Central
Infield (including catchers):
1. Clovis – The Cougars return Miles Henderson and Jalen White who should control the middle. Brayden Nicholson received a handful of starts as a sophomore last season at third base and his coaches hope that he shows growth this year. Noah Beal anchors first base when he’s not pitching. Koby Kropf will break into the rotation behind the plate. Clovis is as experienced as anyone.
2. Memorial – Long Beach State commit Eddie Saldivar is one of the best players in the section and locks down the SS position. Sophomore Mikey Bell received significant playing time as a freshman and could be penciled in at 2B. Fresno State commit Tyler Davis, who played mostly third base last year, switches to catcher and coaches are high on his potential there. Tanner Sagouspe has shown the ability to play third base and may be counted at that spot.
3. Stockdale – The Mustangs are led by UCSB commit middle infielder Adolph Sykes—who is only a sophomore. College coaches rave about his ability and instincts. Senior Drew Hallgren can play up the middle as well. Zach Johansen proved to be reliable as a catcher a season ago and can also play third base. Owen Nagel also got innings behind the plate as a sophomore last year.
Honorable mention – Clovis North, Clovis West, Buchanan
1. Buchanan – Four guys fighting for three spots: Juniors Josh Williams, Sky Collins, All-Clovis football player Hayden Petersen and sophomore Corbin Ybarra. Plenty of talent to pick from here and each player has speed and athleticism. Evan Wallace could also be an option, though he is likely to see more time as an infielder.
2. Clovis North – The Broncos have speed to burn between Blake Asadoor, Ryan O’Hara, and Ryan Vance. First team All-TRAC Nolan Inouye returns in left field. Hunter Jansen could see innings, too.
3. Memorial – Fresno State football signee Mac Dalena and sophomore Jack Sampson make this one of the fastest outfields in the section. Giovanni Blanchette has a chance to win the last spot.
Honorable mention – Righetti, Stockdale, Tulare Western
The Dean’s List
On the Bump:
Pinpoint Location: Caleb Dulay, Righetti
Hardest Thrower: Isaac Ayon, Buchanan
Biggest competitor: Riley Cooper, Clovis North
Most Experienced: Tyler Parker, Clovis East
Keep an eye on: Jakob Wright, Paso Robles
Deserves More Attention: Noah Galvan, Clovis West
At the Plate:
Toughest out: Eddie Saldivar, Memorial
Biggest threat to leave the yard: Kaleb Dickey, Liberty
Power/Speed combo: Brady Zavorek, Bullard
Under the radar: Brad Senneway, Clovis West
Steadiest approach: Nolan Inouye, Clovis North
Best 1-2 punch: Noah Beal-Koby Kropf, Clovis
On the Infield:
Arm strength: Temo Becerra, Buchanan
Best glove: Cason Brownell, Clovis North
Range: Adolph Sykes, Stockdale
Ability to play anywhere: Miles Henderson, Clovis
Breakout year: Elias Mart, Clovis East
In the Outfield:
Biggest arm: Corbin Ybarra, Buchanan
Most range: Mac Dalena, Memorial
Player you need to know: Nathan Marroquin, Tulare Western
Newcomer of the year: Josh Williams, Buchanan
Behind the Dish:
Strongest arm: Trent Alles, Central
Best safety net: Tyler Davis, Memorial
Gym-rat: Austin Young, Buchanan
Newcomer of the year: Koby Kropf, Clovis