DIAMOND NOTES: Cherry Valley pitcher working his way up in Toronto chain … Juarez, De Longchamp tabbed first-team all-league … Longtime Yucaipa softball coach heads for Minot, N.D.
At 1-2 for the Lansing Lugnuts, Cherry Valley’s Jackson McClelland might seem a distant major league baseball prospect.
That could be a misleading number.
As of Monday, McClelland was sparkling in his role as the closer for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Class A farm team in the Midwest League.
He had eight saves in nine chances. His earned run average, 1.80, was a sparkling number. In 20 innings, his 17 strikeouts (13 hits, 10 walks) seemed to be good enough to land the Lugnuts into a fourth place finish in the first half of the season.
Like the California League, in which Inland Empire, Rancho Cucamonga, Lancaster and Lake Elsinore form the South Division, seasons are split into halves.
First half champions take on the second half champions in each division for the chance to play for the overall championship.
In McClelland’s case, his performances have taken him the next level. He reported to Class AA Dunedin (Fla.) recently. He picked up a save in one of his first opportunities – six games, seven innings pitched for the Blue Jays’ Florida State League stop.
It’s a team that has plenty of relievers – a nice bit of organizational moves by the Blue Jays.
McClelland’s background is simple: He prepped at nearby Redlands East Valley High School. Selecting the college route, McClelland wound up at Pepperdine University, eventually selected by Toronto in the 15th round back in 2015.
He’s not listed in the organization’s Top 30 prospects, but there’s always room for an up and coming closer. Likely projected more of a middle inning relief pitcher, McClelland has seized upon his pro opportunity.
Since being drafted, he’s 3-6, 2.71 ERA in 49 games, saving 10 out of 15 over 63 innings (55 hits allowed, 48 strikeouts).
Gilbert Juarez and Jacob De Longchamp won first-team, all-league honors on this year’s Mountain Pass League team, voted on by six coaches.
Juarez, a senior, and De Longchamp, a junior, headed a cast of Cougars that pulled off a strong run at the season’s end to clinch a Southern Section playoff berth.
Second team honors went to Dustin Perkins, a senior, along with junior Bryce Hayes. Senior Noah Valdivia and sophomore David Corona won honorable mention.
The honors were unveiled at the team banquet last month at which third baseman Jason Ward was named team Most Valuable Player – honors voted on by the team.
Juarez was named the Cougars’ most improved player.
Hayes won a Scholastic award.
Beaumont coach noted a number of players that received booster club scholastic awards – De Longchamp, Christian Hartig, Hayes, Juarez, Austin Osborn, Perkins, Brandyn Rhea, Caleb Short, Ward and Valdivia.
David Kivett, who turned into a high-level softball coach at Yucaipa High School after having been a thousand-yard running back during his Thunderbirds’ playing days, is taking off.
The onetime CIF Coach of the Year, Kivett, 56, has taken a job as head coach at Minot (N.D.) State University’s softball program.
The move could be seen as somewhat shocking, especially since Kivett is coming off a brilliant career as Yucaipa’s longtime softball coach – winning the Southern Section Division 2 championship in 2015.
Yucaipa took a share of this past spring’s Citrus Belt League championship, deadlocking for first place with Redlands at 12-21. Two seasons earlier, Yucaipa rolled to a Section title, finishing 31-4, largely behind the pitching of southpaw Brooke Bolinger.
Kivett was a national Coach of the Year off that season.
His connection at Minot State dates back to his college-playing days when he was a first-team all-conference defensive back for the Beavers in 1983. His energy and experience went a long way toward his selection as Lady Beavers’ coach, said Athletic Director Andy Carter.
“Dave really impressed those he met with on campus during the interview process,” said Carter.
Since departing Minot State as a student, Kivett quickly connected at Yucaipa High School as a coach – football and softball. Part of his background includes Sudden Impact, a club softball team that has produced top-tier players.
Kivett has coached over 40 college-bound student-athletes during his 12-year Lady T-Birds’ coaching days.
Minot State finished 25-22 overall last season.