2018 Season Preview: Clovis Cougars

Blaine Clemmens
Northern California Director of Scouting

As the start of the 2018 high school baseball season in California draws closer, we’ve begun rolling out team previews from around the state.

In this edition we go to the Central Valley to take a peek at the defending CIF Central Section Division 1 champion Clovis Cougars.  They will have to replace much their team from last season and are in a highly competitive conference, so let’s see what long time head coach James Patrick’s squad looks like.  We are talking about a coach who has coached eight CIF section championship teams, three California teams of the year, and two national championship teams.

Team: Clovis HS  

Nickname: Cougars

Section: Central, Division 1

League: Tri-River Athletic Conference (TRAC)

Head Coach: James Patrick

Years as Head Coach at CHS: 31

Team Twitter Handle: @CloHighBaseball

2017 Overall Record: 25-7-1

2017 League Finish: 10-5 (2nd)

2017 Postseason Finish: Central Section D1 Champion

Team Website: Clovis Cougars

Number of Returning Starters: 3

Number of Returning Pitchers: 1

Top Returning Players:

Blake Sodersten: SR/RHP - 6-3 210, tough/durable, ‘17 2.05 ERA, 4-3, 61.1 IP, 55 K, good secondary stuff, mid-80s, Uncommitted

Jay Massey: SR/INF - 6-0 180, 3-year starter, lead-off hitter, ’17 16 RBI, 5 2B, competes at any position, Uncommitted

Darrien Miller: JR/C - 6-0 170, L/R, high level catch/throw/block skills, started as soph, ’17 18 RBI, 4 2B, Uncommitted

Other Players To Watch:

Justin Tiger: JR/SS - 5-9, hands/feet coordination stand out, varsity experience as a sophomore

Noah Beal: SO/RHP-1B - 6-3, strong build, heavy ball, mid-80s

Matt Sanchez: JR/INF - 3 sport athlete (football, soccer, baseball), plus runner

Season Outlook:

In 2017 Clovis was a heavily laden senior team that battled from the three seed to defeat Buchanan in the CIF Central Section title game.  Five seniors had over 100 plate appearances, while only two underclassmen (Massey/Miller) had 90 or more plate appearances.  The Cougars also have to replace 65% of the innings on the mound from last season, with only two returning pitchers who logged any significant time in 2017. 

Coach James Patrick has been at this a long time but hasn’t had such a precocious group in a long time… maybe ever. While speaking with him, he indicated that in his career, he can’t recall coming off a championship caliber season and then being so inexperienced the following year.  However, he also said that he really likes the group of kids he’s got and he’s looking forward to the challenge.  He is not concerned by the unknown, rather, he believes the character of the group suggests there are good things ahead in 2018.

What the Cougars DO have returning is big, strong, experienced senior right-hander in Blake Sodersten.  As a junior he pitched 61.1 innings, second on the staff, and posted a stellar 2.05 ERA, with strikeout stuff and a low walk total (18).  He will be asked to anchor the staff.  The plan is that the staff gets strong contributions from 2020 right-hander Noah Beal, who will have a chance to contribute (significantly) as a sophomore.  In fact, Coach Patrick feels that Sodersten’s leadership qualities will be a benefit to Beal. 

One of the staples of a Clovis HS team over the years is pitching and defense.  With Sodersten on the mound, and Darrien Miller returning as the starting catcher, along with infielder/utility player and lead-off hitter Jay Massey, there IS experience in some key spots.  Miller is a left-handed hitting catcher with catch-throw skills his coach rates with the best in the area.  In fact, he just might rate as the top defensive catcher in the TRAC.  Very few kids have been 4-year varsity contributors for the Cougars, and yet, Coach Patrick considered starting Miller as a freshman.

Massey is a three-year starter and good athlete who will play all over the diamond.  Massey looks to have some young talent around him in the infield, with junior shortstop Justin Tiger and junior infielder Matt Sanchez.  Tiger has high level infield skills that rate with the best Coach Patrick has ever had. Sanchez has athleticism that is clearly noticeable, with speed to burn.  Experience is great… but talent is also good, and these players are talented.

With a three-year starter in Massey to lead the way, Tiger and Sanchez have a great role model to learn from. Sanchez’s versatility and athleticism will likely have him in a super-utility role for the Cougars.  He is one of the under-the-radar talents in the conference, but hopefully not for long.

The conference is very strong again, with Buchanan, Clovis West, and Clovis North all expected to have good seasons.  Clovis will compete in three tournaments this season, including the loaded Central California Showcase, so the young players will have a great chance to cut their teeth early before they head into TRAC play. 

Each and every season, regardless of experience, Coach Patrick expects to compete for a conference and section championship.  Those are the baseline expectations at CHS and in 2018 that will be no different. He feels that he has high character kids who are multi-sport athletes and they are ready to compete.  If they fall short, they will continue to build on their foundation and that will benefit the Cougars in 2019 and beyond.


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California high school coaches can request a 2019 preseason questionnaire from Northern California Director of Scouting Blaine Clemmens at [email protected] or California State Director of Scouting Les Lukach at [email protected] 

Note: The completion of a questionnaire does not guarantee we will be able to get it posted before the start of the season.