CVC baseball tops Sanger in 9 innings for Fowler Easter Classic

Apaches rally to take the lead twice in extra innings before Cavaliers pull out the victory on a wild sequence of plays

Sanger High’s Evan Rodriguez watches his game-tying RBI single travel to the outfield during the fifth inning of the Apaches’ 4-3 nine-inning loss to the Cavaliers in the championship game of the Fowler Easter Classic baseball tournament on March 27. (Jon Earnest)
Sanger High’s Evan Rodriguez watches his game-tying RBI single travel to the outfield during the fifth inning of the Apaches’ 4-3 nine-inning loss to the Cavaliers in the championship game of the Fowler Easter Classic baseball tournament on March 27. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published March 28, 2024  • 
2:00 pm

FOWLER – The Sanger High baseball team was on the verge of taking the Fowler Easter Classic championship by the throat in extra innings on a cloudy and rain-threatening Wednesday night at Fowler High varsity diamond. But in lightning-quick fashion, Central Valley Christian (CVC) seized the championship hardware.

One out away from a Sanger title with no one on base in the bottom of the ninth, the Cavaliers’ laced together a single by Bryce Crook, hit by pitch from Kelan Turner and clutch RBI single by Dominic Alvarado. On Alvarado’s game-tying hit, an errant throw to third allowed Turner to score the winning run and cap a wild 4-3 victory.

The Apaches (12-4) twice appeared to have victory assured with extra-inning rallies, and also dodged a potential game-ending pickle in the eighth inning. Big play heroics by all-tournament selection Ricky Simental, Gold Glove selection Zak Cuellar, Evan Rodriguez and freshman pitcher Adam Calhoun were all factors.

Rodriguez stepped up first with a run-scoring single in the fifth inning to tie the game, 1-1. Right-hander Calhoun then worked out of a pair of tight spots after coming on in relief in the fifth inning to help take it to extra innings, then gave Sanger a 2-1 lead by chopping an infield single in the eighth inning.

CVC loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, and tied the game when Calhoun hit Zach Simmon with a pitch. Pinch-hitter Ryan Vander Tuig then lined a shot to a drawn-in shortstop Cuellar, who made a sprawling catch and then threw to third base for an apparent inning-ending double play. But umpires ruled an inadvertent dead ball after the throw to third, and Calhoun needed to retire Landon Holloway on a ground ball back to the mound to end the inning.

Then came the fateful ninth inning. Joe Morales led off with a line drive single to left, and an error on Brenden Dominguez’s grounder to short put runners at first and second. Junior Cuellar then laced an RBI single to right to put the Apaches ahead for a second time. Reliever Holloway put out the fire by retiring the next three including a strikeout looking to set the stage for CVC.

Receiving all-tournament honors for the Cavaliers were Alvarado, Teague Brandenberg and Crook along with Simental and Max Torres for Sanger. The Apaches’ Character and Class winner was outfielder Moises Hernandez while CVC’s Case Anker won the award for his team.

Sanger — which had strong second place finishes in the Central Valley Diamond Classic as well as the Fowler Easter Classic — returns to County Metro Athletic Conference play on Wednesday, April 3, with a 3:30 p.m. game in Fresno against Justin Garza High. The Apaches then host Bulllard at 3:30 p.m. Friday, April 5.

CVC, which prior to the tournament dropped its first Tri-County Conference Kings Canyon Division contests, will try to bounce back with a TCC home game at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 2 against Sierra Pacific High from Hanford.

Taft 15, Dinuba 9

In the Classic’ third place game, Taft High (9-7) rapped out 13 hits and built a 13-3 lead before the Emperors (5-11) made it competitive with a six-run outburst in the fifth inning. The Wildcats’ William Espinoza went 2-for-2 and garnered the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honors.

Character and Class team award winner Noah Gonzalez collected two hits including a double, while Matthew Guido and Paul Huerta each drove in two runs.

Emps junior pitcher Derek Hernandez was voted as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Pitcher for two solid mound performances earlier in the tournament, including a strong six-inning two-hit effort in the semifinals loss to CVC. The Emperors will resume West Yosemite League play on Tuesday, April 2 with a 7 p.m. home game against Tulare Union.

Jon Earnest
Reporter