A year ago, El Diamante High was the new kid on the Central Section Division I softball block.
Now, the Miners are at the head of the pack.
The section's defending D-I champions are off to a 10-0 start and debut today as The Bee's No. 1-ranked team heading into a 2:30 p.m. home doubleheader against perennial power and No. 8 Clovis.
El Diamante, which returns seven of nine position starters from the team that defeated Stockdale and ace pitcher Justine Vela 1-0 for the title last year during its first season in D-I, also has caught the attention of state and national polls.
The Miners are ranked No. 6 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 20 in the nation in ESPN's Fab 50.
"It's kind of unreal when you look at our team. My jaw dropped the first time I heard about our state and national rankings," coach Travis Roebuck said.
"It's been great. We've received a lot of accolades since the championship last year and that's produced a little competition [within the team]. They all push each other in the same direction, and that's a big part of our success."
El Diamante has beaten a who's-who list of section softball elite this season, including Buchanan, Central and Hanford West, as well as D-II contenders Clovis North and Tulare Western and D-V power Liberty-Madera Ranchos.
The Miners have four players -- pitcher Sierra Hyland (Cal Poly), catcher Katy McJunkin (Purdue), second baseman Stevi Johnson (Charleston Southern) and outfielder Baylee Jensen (Virginia Tech) -- who have given oral commitments to Division I colleges. Hyland, McJunkin and Johnson are all juniors, while Jensen is a sophomore.
And all four are off to strong starts.
Hyland is 10-0 with a 0.89 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 55 innings in the circle, while hitting .571 with three homers and 10 RBIs. McJunkin (.364, 7 RBIs), Johnson (.296, 5 RBIs) and Jensen (.364, 5 RBIs) all get it done with the bat and glove.
"We talked about the pressure we're going to have," Roebuck said. "Everyone is expecting us to be the top team. We can't get big heads. We are playing good ball right now, but there are things we need to work on and not get overconfident."
Section HR record in sight
Fresno's Anthony Hawkins is closing in on the Central Section's career home run record for baseball, according to historian Bob Barnett.
The career mark of 34 is shared by Centennial's Dustin Robinson (2006-08) and Ridgeview/Stockdale's Isaiah Turner (2007-10). Hawkins, who played his first two seasons at McLane, is tied for second with Centennial's Jarrett Martin (2006-08) with 32.
Hawkins moved past Liberty-Bakersfield's Luke Yoder (2003-06) with his 32nd homer Friday against his old school, McLane. Hawkins -- who hit four homers as a freshman, nine as a sophomore and 12 last season -- is one of seven players in section history with 30 or more home runs, a list that also includes Orosi's Raul Gonzales (1988-91) and Frontier's Blayne Ontiveros (2008-11).
The Warriors (9-1) host Reedley at 3:30 p.m. today and face Hoover on Bullard's field at 3:30 p.m. Friday as Hawkins continues to chase the mark.
Clovis West girls volleyball libero Hannah Butler signed with Fresno Pacific, where she will join fellow former Golden Eagles Lyndsie Petersen (outside hitter) and Mariah Mandelbaum (assistant coach).
Butler was a second-team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association after a senior season where she had 473 digs and 471 serve receives for Central Section Division I champion Clovis West.
Seeking a coach
Mt. Whitney's girls basketball team, which snapped a 36-game losing streak last season, is seeking a new coach.
Details: athletic director John Perez, (559) 679-4831.
The Bee's Top 10s
Baseball: By Andy Boogaard
1. Clovis North 11-1
2. Buchanan 9-3
3. Clovis West 10-2
4. Bullard 9-3
5. Centennial 5-4
6. Stockdale 6-3
7. Clovis 8-4
8. Clovis East 9-3
9. Fresno 9-1
10. Frontier 6-3
Softball: By Nick Giannandrea
1. El Diamante 10-0
2. Central 7-2
3. Clovis West 10-3
4. Buchanan 7-1-1
5. Ridgeview 12-1-1
6. Hanford West 8-3-1
7. Kingsburg 17-0
8. Clovis 4-4
9. Bullard 3-4
10. Edison 12-3