CENTRAL VALLEY DIAMOND CLASSIC: Sanger’s win streak ends in CVDC championship game

Apaches’ unable to rally from a second multi-run deficit in 9-1 loss to Lemoore High, handing them first blemish of the season after eight victories

Lemoore High’s Nick Johnson pitches in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 9-1 victory at Sanger High in the championship game of the Central Valley Diamond Classic on March 9. The righthander allowed just one run on four hits in six-plus innings as Lemoore (6-2) dealt the Apaches’ their first loss of the season after eight straight wins. (Jon Earnest)
Lemoore High’s Nick Johnson pitches in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 9-1 victory at Sanger High in the championship game of the Central Valley Diamond Classic on March 9. The righthander allowed just one run on four hits in six-plus innings as Lemoore (6-2) dealt the Apaches’ their first loss of the season after eight straight wins. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published March 11, 2024  • 
11:00 am

SANGER – Sanger High’s late-game magic ran out in the finals of the Central Valley Diamond Classic against Nick Johnson and Lemoore High, resulting in the Apaches’ first baseball defeat of the season.

The tall righthander limited Sanger (8-1) to just four hits through six-plus innings while driving in two runs, and the visiting Tigers (6-2) parlayed a trio of three-run outbursts for a 9-1 victory under the lights at Sanger High variety diamond. The Apaches were unable to repeat the comeback heroics of a 10-6 win over Sierra Pacific on March 6, when they wiped out a six-run deficit after one inning.

“This is one-third of the season,” said head coach David Cuellar. “The first nine games, (to go) 8-1, I couldn’t ask for a better start to the season.”.

Lemoore jumped to the lead with three runs in the third inning, pulling off a double steal followed by a two-run single from Johnson. Sanger had a chance to bounce right back in the bottom of the third by putting a pair of runners on base, but Johnson put out the fire by inducing a double play ground ball to second by Mason Ogawa.

The Tigers then put the game out of reach with three more runs in the sixth and seventh innings, with the first outburst aided by three Apaches errors. Tyson Kinter had an RBI double in the sixth, and two more errors combined with walks and two hits completed Lemoore’s scoring.

Johnson finally tired in the bottom of the seventh, and Ricky Simental delivered Sanger’s only run with an RBI double to right center. Simental had two of the Apaches’ five hits, while starting pitcher Jesus Cerda took the loss.

Cuellar told his players before the game that playing a night game in a championship atmosphere would prove beneficial to his squad, regardless of the outcome.

“Playing a good team, that’s what we’re gonna see 15 times in the (County Metro Athletic Conference). I thought it was a good experience for us,” he said. On March 8, Sanger tuned up for conference competition with a 22-7 road rout at McLane High.

Sanger’s CMAC schedule begins on Friday, March 15, in Fresno with a 3:30 p.m. matchup at Edison High (4-1). The Apaches then have a 3 p.m. game Saturday, March 16 in the Fowler Easter Classic against Taft High (4-5) before returning to CMAC play Tuesday, March 19 (6:30 p.m.) at home against Madera.

Sanger High’s Max Torres takes a cut at a pitch during the later innings of a 9-1 loss to Lemoore High in the championship game of the Central Valley Diamond Classic on March 9 at SHS varsity diamond. It was the Apaches’ first loss of the season after eight straight victories. (Jon Earnest)

In other CVDC games on Saturday:

Reedley 8, Mt. Whitney 5

At Visalia, the Pirates (3-4) pushed across four runs in the top of the seventh inning to rally for the road win over the Pioneers (5-3). Reedley trailed 4-0 after one inning before tying the game with four runs in the second, then responded late after Mt. Whitney scored a single run in the sixth. 

Senior shortstop Darren Ortiz went 2-for-3 and two runs scored while Cole Betancourt was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Mason Cisneros picked up the pitching win with three innings of relief, allowing a run on two hits with five strikeouts.

Reedley opens its Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division season with a 4 p.m. home game on Thursday, March 14 against Exeter. The Monarchs (7-1) suffered their first loss of the season on March 8.

Dinuba 11, Sanger West 2

At Sierra Pacific High in Hanford, the Emperors (2-7) scored in six of seven innings to cruise past the Hornets (4-4). Dinuba collected 15 hits against three SW pitchers. Senior George Cardenas had two of Sanger West’s four hits including a double.

Dinuba’s West Yosemite League opener will be at home on Thursday, March 14 against Hanford High (5-4) in a 7 p.m. start on DHS varsity field at Washington Intermediate School. Sanger West has non-league games this week at Corcoran (March 12) and home against Mendota (Thursday, March 14, 3 p.m.) before opening North Yosemite League play at Hoover on Tuesday, March 19.

Jon Earnest
Reporter