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Baseball team goes all the way; several teams advanced to CIF

Cade Van Allen leaps up for the catch as his opponent tries to beat him to the base. Photo by Megan Weferling

Spring was a stellar season for AHS athletes as Greyhounds in several sports teams made it to the post-season of the CIF competition. The baseball team was the focus of Greyhound pride as they advanced all the way to the CIF Championship game, while star hurdler Jacob Winch qualified for the State meet.

The golf team, consisting of Troy Normile, Sam Bordan, Trey Girote, Nathan Clough, Chance Viale, and Isaac Lowe, made it the first round of CIF, with Normile advancing to the first round of CIF individual play as well.

Swimmers Cristina Mansir, Colby Van Housen, Dante Donati, Jonny Cave, Garrett Nichols, Blake Power, Makayla Power, Madison Howell, Emma Kim, Mina Nogi, and Evelyn Rinkenberger all advanced to the first round of CIF competition.

The softball team had an amazing season, winning 6-0 against Centennial in the first round of CIF play. They followed that win with a second-round victory against Clovis North with a score of 6-3. They then lost 0-1 to Stockdale in a heartbreakingly close semi-final match-up.

The tennis team as a whole advanced to the first round of CIF, with no individual players advancing.

Track athletes are still competing (see separate story), advancing to the Masters Meet, with expectations that a few athletes will advance to the state championships.

Then there is baseball, and what a season they have had. After a mixed season of league play, the Hounds went all the way to the CIF Championship against Highland High School on May 18 in Fresno. Even though they did not come away with the win, their journey was one for the record books.

According to Assistant Coach Ryan Hoffman, “The Hounds started off the season trying to find an identity. With a new head coach [Mr. Davis] and coaching staff (the third in three years), the Hounds were introduced to a new approach and philosophy that they could buy into. It was a slow start, but it took a small group of men with perseverance who worked extremely hard each day to weather that early storm and slowly build on each day’s efforts.” Hoffman described a turning point in the middle of the season when he saw a change beginning to happen. “We swept Paso and played great against St. Joe heading into the Easter tournament, where we ended up second.” The season ended with a series split against a tough Arroyo Grande ball club, and our team played its best baseball.” The Hounds finished the season 12-17, with a slim opportunity to sneak into the CIF Central Section playoffs with a 12 seed, drawing an away game against 5 seed Reedley High.

That back and forth game against Reedley for the first round of CIF was a tough test, but the Hounds pitching carried the team through with a 5-3 victory. Then North High knocked off the number 2 seed, Mission Prep, in ten innings, which gave the Hounds a home game on May 10 against a tired pitching staff. According to Hoffman, “The Hounds were able to stay hot and put up a bunch of hits, and Justin Vose dominated on the mound in a 19-1 win.” With the second round behind them, the Hounds headed into the semi-finals looking like they just might pull off a Cinderella story.

Playing at home on May 15, the Hounds took on the Templeton Eagles for a thrilling semi-final game, which ended in a nailbiter score of 4-3. Hoffman recalled, “With our senior Cade Van Allen on the hill, we jumped into a dog fight.” The Eagles went up 1-0 in the first inning, but the Hounds came right back that inning to take the lead 2-1. In the fourth inning, the Eagles jumped ahead 3-2 on a walk and a few hits. The Hounds kept fighting, and in the bottom of the fifth, they took the lead scoring two on a base hit with a throwing error by Templeton. “We brought in our closer Evyn Lade, and he took it from there, throwing two scoreless innings to win the game and send the Hounds to the finals,” recalled Hoffman.

The team traveled to Fresno with high hopes for a championship on May 18 to face off against third seed Highland High School out of East Bakersfield for what has been called the “Valley Championship.” They had been undefeated and only suffered two losses all year. Having won the championship in 2017, and making their second trip to the finals in three years, the Highland Scots were going to be a tough opponent. Hoffman said, “We went with our lefty Justin Vose, who has been our workhorse all year. He kept the Scots scoreless until the fourth inning, when they were able to sneak a run on a passed ball. The Scots put up two more in the following inning. “It was 3-0 going into the seventh, and our bats just were not able to string together enough hits to mount a comeback.” With a final score of 0-3, the Hounds ended their unforgettable season rightly proud of their performance.

Looking back, Hoffman said, “It was an amazing run by a group of kids who battled a ton of adversity. With their backs against the wall, they kept finding a way to keep pushing forward. It was a season that this coaching staff was proud to be a part of, and will be the building block for a program that is set to produce contenders for years to come.”

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