Natalie Rendon doesn't blow hitters away with a blazing fastball.
But make no mistake, the sophomore right-hander knows how to get people out.
Rendon pitched a four-hit shutout Tuesday to lead fourth-seeded Buchanan High to a 5-0 victory over No. 9 Clovis in the semifinals of the Central Section Division I playoffs. The Bears (25-7-1) will try to win their fourth Division I championship Thursday in Bakersfield against second-seeded Stockdale, which beat No. 3 Central 4-0 in the other semifinal.
"I just knew I had to throw the right pitches and my team would back me up," Rendon said. "I knew from throwing against [Clovis] earlier in the season that I could do it if I hit my spots."
Rendon was hitting her spots all right.
By working all parts of the plate, Rendon limited Clovis (22-13) to four singles, two of which didn't leave the infield. The Cougars made contact in 21 of their 27 plate appearances, with only three balls reaching the outfield.
"She battled us and did a phenomenal job," Clovis coach Mike Noel said. "She doesn't throw hard, but that's only one aspect of pitching, and she does all the others well."
Diane Runge used her speed to give Buchanan the only run it would need.
Runge led off the bottom of the first with an infield single and moved to second on Amani Proctor's ground out to shortstop. With Bailey O'Dell batting, Runge went to third on a delayed steal and scored on O'Dell's sacrifice fly.
"That set the tone for me," Rendon said. "I knew with one run, we could hold them."
From there, Rendon only allowed one runner past first base, and that wasn't even her fault. A throwing error allowed Clovis' Kapri Angotti to take second to lead off the fourth inning. But Rendon rallied by getting Chelse Roberts to pop up a sacrifice attempt, inducing a ground out by Alissa Guiterrez and getting Danielle L'argent to pop up to second, stranding Angotti at third.
"She just throws her pitches, hits her spots and lets her defense play," Buchanan coach Dean Gregory said. "When you don't have pitching that blows people away, you've got to have good defense, and we had that today."
Buchanan, which last won a section title in 2004, gave itself some cushion with a four-run fourth inning, highlighted by a run-scoring squeeze by Rushael Lawley, an RBI single by Michelle Murphy and a two-run double by Dom Selby.
"We all came out ready to play," Selby said. "We were focused and kept our confidence up. We want to win Valley."
In other semifinal action ...
Justine Vela struck out 13 and only faced one real threat as she led Stockdale (21-7) past Central (25-8) and into the Division I final.
The Grizzlies got two of their four hits with two outs in the sixth inning, but Vela got out of the jam with a strikeout. Morgan Reiter struck out eight for Central.
Lindsey Vieira and Brianne Hardman had back-to-back run-scoring doubles in a three-run first inning that powered top-seeded Tulare Western (26-7) to a 12-2 victory over No. 4 El Diamante (22-11) in Division II.
Vieira and Hardman each finished with two hits, and Hardman pitched a five-hitter for the victory. The Mustangs will host second-seeded Golden West at 4:30 p.m. Thursday for the title.
Kacy Fugate's sacrifice fly in the fifth inning scored the go-ahead run as No. 2 Golden West (22-12) edged No. 3 seed and defending champion Tulare 2-1 in Division II.
Tulare (24-7-1) stranded the tying run at second base in the top of the seventh inning as a two-out shot up the middle hit off Golden West pitcher Kim Smith's shoulder and deflected over to second baseman Lauren Blair, who threw to first base for the final out.
Brianna Young pitched a two-hitter, striking out six, and Jessica Hefley doubled twice and knocked in a run to lead No. 4 Hanford West (19-13) to a 5-0 victory over No. 9 Clovis North (16-12-2) in Division III.
The Huskies will host crosstown rival and sixth-seeded Hanford at 4:30 p.m. Thursday for the title. The Bullpups (14-18) upset No. 2 Ridgeview 6-4.
Michelle Brassfield went 3 for 4 with a double, three runs and two RBIs to power No. 3 Kingsburg (26-8) to a 7-2 victory over No. 7 McLane (18-15) and back into the Division IV final.
The Vikings, who beat Immanuel last year for the title, also received two doubles from Emily Campos and two RBIs from Amber Orosco. Vinnessa Johnson hit a home run for McLane (18-15).
Chelsea Weber pitched a five-hitter and blasted a home run to lead No. 4 Kerman (28-8) to a 2-0 victory over No. 8 Chowchilla (12-19) in D-IV. Cassie Sears knocked in the other run for the Lions.
Top-seeded Riverdale (22-7) reached the Division V final as Katie Conway went 3 for 4 with two RBIs in a 6-5 victory over No. 5 Caruthers (11-12).
Kayla Barber pitched a three-hitter as No. 10 Liberty-Madera Ranchos (14-18-1) pulled a 3-0 shocker over No. 3 Firebaugh (21-5-1) in D-V.
Liberty-Madera Ranchos advances to play Riverdale for the championship Thursday. This is the Gold-Hawks' fifth trip to the final. They won the 2005 title.