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Baseball: Fairview’s Clarke named Player of the Year

The biggest bat in a red-hot lineup, Fairview's Jeff Clarke is the 2014 baseball Player of the Year
Paul Aiken / Daily Camera
The biggest bat in a red-hot lineup, Fairview’s Jeff Clarke is the 2014 baseball Player of the Year

Jeff Clarke at-bats were must-see activities in the spring.

Allow Fairview teammate Jake Thoning to eloquently explain.

“The only way I can describe it is, when he was up to bat, you were paying attention,” Thoning said. “He was going to do something special. We all knew that. With some players, you could go to the bathroom or whatever, but with him, you stay and watch.”

A pretty fair assessment when surveying the damage the senior first baseman inflicted on opposing pitching. For his bash-happy efforts, Clarke was named the Daily Camera and baseball Player of the Year.

The Knights MVP on a roster full of deserving candidates, Clarke batted .531 with five home runs and 39 RBIs. He added 12 doubles. Clarke, who will play at Division I Abilene Christian, registered 14 multi-hit games, including a 5 for 5, seven-RBI performance against Bear Creek.

“I was seeing the ball well all spring, seeing good pitches and hitting the ball hard,” Clarke said. “I was able to find the gaps. And all the dudes around me were hitting well, too, so that really helped me out because they couldn’t pitch around anybody.”

Clarke’s recovery from a blood clot and ensuing surgery has been well documented, and his junior season largely represented a comeback to form. His senior season was all about baseball and many onlookers waited to see just how earth-shattering his numbers could be.

“He just had one of the biggest offensive years I’ve seen in a long time,” Fairview coach Rick Harig said. “We had two guys in our league who were that way. Carl Stajduhar (of state champion Rocky Mountain) beat Clarke out for Front Range League Player of the Year, but they both got a lot of votes.”

Clarke played solid defense at first base as well, something he is taking pride in as he prepares for college ball. On a 20-3 Knights squad, Clarke exuded the quiet confidence and not-so-quiet bat that made him a lethal threat.

“Everybody hit and he still stood out,” Harig said.

About the only time Clarke and Fairview didn’t punish the scoreboard was the state tournament, where the Knights had the unfavorable draw of seeing three consecutive high-level Division I pitchers.

First, ThunderRidge threw A.J. Jones (BYU) and Tyler Loptien (San Diego State) against Fairview in a game the Knights lost in extra innings. Then, Regis Jesuit deployed Oregon-bound lefty David Peterson. The Knights lost that one on a late grand slam by Colorado Rockies sixth-round pick Max George, who ultimately decided to forgo his commitment to Oregon State in order to sign with the Rockies.

“That season, it was awesome and it was definitely the funnest team I’ve ever been a part of,” said Clarke, who is playing for Impact Sports this summer. “It’s a bummer it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but we still accomplished a lot of great things.”

Included in those accomplishments were a Front Range League title with a clean 11-0 sweep, a 16-game winning streak, a 10-run first inning against Arapahoe to land in the state tournament and a boatload of memories.

After having his sophomore year wiped out, the slugger took nothing for granted.

“I just tried to put in all the work I could in the offseason, really,” Clarke said. “Put in a lot of time in the weight room, in the cage, even did a lot of yoga, too. I just tried to prepare myself because you never know what to expect in baseball.”

Clarke’s insane 2014 campaign was one of those things.

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