Its aura of invincibility has been stripped away, but that didn't keep the Buchanan High softball team from gaining top billing in the Central Section Division I softball playoffs.
The Bears, despite dropping two of their final four regular-season games after going undefeated against the section for a calendar year, beat out Southwest Yosemite League winner Stockdale and Tri-River Athletic Conference rival Clovis West for the No. 1 seed.
In fact, late-season losses didn't appear to harm many of the 12 teams given No. 1 seeds in softball or baseball over six divisions during Saturday's playoff-seeding meeting in Porterville, as nine lost at least once in the past two weeks, including Division I baseball top seed Clovis West.
Both of the top seeds in D-I can thank their section-best overall records -- Buchanan softball is 30-3 while Clovis West baseball is 27-3 -- and their championships in the powerful TRAC for their right to host games throughout their playoff runs.
Never miss a local story.
"I figured the other teams we were in the running with were from our own league, and since we finished ahead of them, I felt pretty confident we'd get it," Buchanan softball coach Dean Gregory said.
"Stockdale had a couple of losses. Had they won out in their league, it might have been different."
The Bears are one of five defending section softball champions favored to repeat as top seeds.
The others are Hanford West (D-III), Kerman (D-IV), Liberty-Madera Ranchos (D-V) and Laton (D-VI).
Frontier is the No. 1 seed in D-II, which was won by Tulare Western last season.
And despite his team's late-season swoon, which included a 3-0 loss to Central on Friday, Gregory said Buchanan is ready to defend its title.
The Bears, as a No. 4 seed, defeated No. 2 Stockdale 5-3 last season for the school's fourth section title.
"Our kids are excited about the playoffs," said Gregory, whose team opens Friday against the winner between No. 8 Central and No. 9 Bullard.
"Whoever gets hot, that's who will end up with it. But I like our chances as well as anybody's."
A whole new batch of section champions is expected in baseball, where only one returning division winner -- Hanford, seeded second in D-III -- is among the top three playoff seeds this season.
Clovis West has defeated all comers this season as it tries to get over the hump following runner-up finishes in two of the past three years.
The Golden Eagles staked their claim to the No. 1 seed -- and the right to remain in the comforts of Stan Bledsoe Field -- by defeating every section team on their schedule at least once, including second-seeded and TRAC runner-up Buchanan (three times) and third-seeded Centennial (the SWYL champion that Clovis West topped 5-4 at home during the Fresno Easter Classic).
Stockdale, the two-time defending D-I champion, is seeded fifth behind Clovis, a third TRAC school among the top four.
Other No. 1 seeds in baseball went to Golden West (D-II), Clovis North (D-III), Kerman (D-IV), Bakersfield Christian (D-V) and McFarland (D-VI).
Edison (D-II), Washington (D-IV), Liberty-Madera Ranchos (D-V) and Orange Cove (D-VI) are defending division champions.
The baseball playoffs begin Tuesday and end May 27 for all but D-VI, which wraps up May 25.
Softball playoffs start Wednesday and conclude May 28 for all except D-VI, which ends May 21.