City baseball edges past County late rally

Single runs in three of final four innings pulls out a 4-3 victory, despite contributions from five MVT regional players and Kingsburg contingent

Sanger High’s Enrique (Ricky) Simental slides into third base safely for the County All-Stars during the fourth inning of the 57th annual City-County All-Star baseball game at Chukchansi Park in Fresno on June 2. The Apaches’ leadoff hitter reached base twice on a hit by pitch and infield single, adding a stolen base and two two putouts in centerfield during the game, and the City rallied for single runs in three of the final four innings to pull out a 4-3 victory. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published June 4, 2024  • 
11:30 am

FRESNO – Five players from Mid Valley Times region schools made significant contributions as the County All-Stars baseball team nearly ended their six-game losing streak against the City team in the 57th annual matchup.

Playing before a crowd of about a thousand fans at Chukchansi Park, the County led most of the way after scoring a run in the first inning. But the City pushed across single runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings to wipe out a 3-1 deficit and prevail by a 4-3 score.

Bullard High grad Nick Stubblefield delivered the decisive blow, lacing a hit to right-center to score Clovis West’s Marc Anthony-Carroll with the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth. That extended the City’s win streak to seven straight and overall series lead to 41-16 dating back to 1957 (there was no game in 2020 because of COVID-19).

But for the second straight year, the County made the City work hard to prevail. After losing 5-4 in 2023, the current County squad under the direction of veteran coach Jim Cranford pushed the hosts to the limit. The Vikings rolled to a second consecutive Central Section Division III championship this spring, and six players were part of this year’s County contingent.

Reedley, Immanuel, Sanger (two players) and Dinuba high schools all were represented on the County roster, and all five players made contributions to the near victory. One of those players started in the Eagles Eli Garay, who singled in the first inning and almost added another hit on a tight play at first base in the third.

The Apaches’ Enrique (Ricky) Simental reached base twice during his three-inning playing stint, getting hit by a pitch and stealing second and third in the fourth inning later chopped an infield single in the fourth before getting thrown out trying for another steal, and also played flawless defense handling multiple fly balls in center field.

Sanger’s Joe Morales pitched one inning, yielding a run in the sixth on a wild pitch but escaping a jam on a stellar defensive play by shortstop Gilbert Moisa from Madera South to get the final out.

The other region two players, Reedley High’s Darren Ortiz and Dinuba High’s Noah Gonzalez, played the final three innings for the County. Ortiz lined a single to left during his lone at-bat in the eighth inning, eventually reaching third base before being stranded as the potential go-ahead run. He also played third base defensively.

Catcher Gonzalez struck out in his lone plate appearance in the seventh, but rifled a throw to cut down a City runner trying to steal second in the eighth inning. He almost duplicated the feat in the ninth, with Anthony-Carroll just beating the tag to steal second. A wild pitch moved him to third base, and Stubblefield then ended the game with his hit to right.

The County’s Ines Felix (Firebaugh) and City’s Kai Butler (Buchanan) were honored during the game as recipients of the Edward J. Hallinan Inspirational Player Award. The “Love of the Game” awards went to former San Joaquin Memorial and Bullard playing-coaching legends Pete Dalena and Eric Solberg.

Before the game, Immanuel High student Leah Thomas sang the national anthem.

Jon Earnest