Sienna Swain’s ascension to the top of the Buchanan High softball team’s batting order suited her well.
It paid off handsomely for the Bears, too.
After moving Swain from the No. 2 hole to leadoff, Buchanan went on an 18-2 run that included Tri-River Athletic Conference and Central Section Division I titles. The Bears were 8-3 and coming off consecutive losses before the switch.
Swain, a senior and The Bee’s Softball Player of the Year, reached base in 28 of 31 games overall, including two hits and an RBI in the top-seeded Bears’ 2-0 victory over No. 2 and defending champion Clovis in the D-I final.
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“When she was on base, we seemed to go,” Bears coach Dean Gregory said. “In games where she didn’t get on base, it seemed scoring was tougher for us.”
When she was on base, we seemed to go.
Buchanan High softball coach Dean Gregory, on Sienna Swain, who helped fuel the Bears’ 18-2 and Central Section Division I title runs after her switch to the leadoff spot in the Bears’ order
Swain was hitting .421 at the time of the switch, which happened after a 2-2 run through the Clovis Easter Classic in mid-March. She finished at .523, scoring 29 of her team-leading 40 runs after the move and helping Buchanan finish at No. 12 in CalHiSports’ final state Division I rankings.
“I took it as a challenge to myself,” Swain said. “It’s definitely a different mindset, and I enjoyed it. I grew to love the leadoff spot. I feel I answered the call.
“I knew I had strong hitters behind me. So my mentality was just get on base for Katie (Jackson), Starr (Vang) and Spencer (Sansom). I just had to get on base and let them do what they are best at.”
Swain got particularly hot during TRAC play, hitting .568 (21 of 37) with 14 runs in 10 games against teams from a league that produced three D-I semifinalists. She was the TRAC Player of the Year.
“She’s the toughest out that there is in the Valley, in my opinion,” Central coach Scott Gorton said. “She’s hard to get out, and she set the table for that really good offense the whole year. Even the best pitchers don’t get her out easy.”
The UC Riverside-bound Swain was a four-year starter for Buchanan, beginning at second base before moving to shortstop early in her freshman season.
Swain hit .459 with 19 doubles, five triples, 69 RBIs and 132 runs – according to section historian Bob Barnett – for Bears teams that went a combined 92-43-1, including a D-I runner-up finish in 2014.
She had 56 hits (with 12 doubles, three triples and 29 RBIs) as a senior, pushing her career total to 179, second most in Buchanan history according to Barnett.
I took it as a challenge to myself. It’s definitely a different mindset, and I enjoyed it. I grew to love the leadoff spot.
Swain, on her transition to leadoff hitter and her role in the team’s section championship
“I felt like she really stepped up as a senior,” Gregory said. “A lot of times, she would spark us by her play at the plate or making a defensive play or as a vocal leader, too. She encouraged the other kids.”
Swain had the unique opportunity of catching the final out in the D-I softball final six months after scoring the match-clinching point in Buchanan’s 6-3 victory over Stockdale for the D-I girls tennis title.
An All-Bee selection in tennis as well, Swain contributed to Bears teams that won three section titles in her four varsity seasons.
“Initially, it was just to have something other than softball to keep my time occupied,” Swain said. “But tennis got me in shape. It helped my lateral movement. And my tennis team was such a good team and at such a high level that I think it helped me as a leader on the softball team.”
Outstanding All-Around Player: Mariah Mazon
School: Mission Oak
She’s qualified because: One of the more dominant pitchers and potent power hitters in the Central Section, Mazon carried Mission Oak to a second straight Division IV title. In the circle, Mazon went 22-3 (tied with Clovis’ Danielle Lung for most wins in the section this season) with a 0.60 ERA and 242 strikeouts in 164 1/3 innings. The Oregon State-bound right-hander fired seven shutouts. At the plate, Mazon hit .486 with five doubles, three triples, nine home runs (tied for second-most in the section this season), 28 RBIs, 35 runs and eight steals. She was named to the All-East Yosemite League first team.
Building her résumé: Mazon allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out seven, and backed her cause by hitting a two-run home run in the second-seeded Hawks’ 4-1 victory over top-seeded Selma in the D-IV final. As a sophomore, Mazon fired a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts as Mission Oak topped Wasco 2-0 for the D-IV title. In three varsity seasons, Mazon is 53-18 with a 0.66 ERA and 618 strikeouts in 448 1/3 innings. She’s a career .494 hitter with 21 doubles, seven triples, 27 homers, 91 RBIs and 99 runs.
She said it: “She’s a blue-chip player. On her worst day, Mariah is better than most kids on their best days. She’s a threat up to bat, she can pitch, she plays phenomenal defense. But what separates Mariah is her passion for the game. She loves it. Every day she gives her best effort and her attitude is evident in her play. She is great to coach. A phenomenal individual.” – Mission Oak coach Dina DaSilva
Outstanding Pitcher: Danielle Lung
She’s qualified because: The Bee’s Outstanding Pitcher for the second straight season, Lung helped lead Clovis to the Central Section Division I final, pitching a three-hitter in a 2-0 loss to Buchanan. She allowed a run on a slicing fly ball to shallow left that got past a charging outfielder and rolled to the fence for an inside-the-park home run, and a bad-hop RBI single. Lung went 22-4 for a team that finished 25-5 and ranked No. 15 in the state in Division I by CalHiSports. In her second varsity season, Lung lowered her ERA from 1.16 to 1.05 and her opponents’ batting average from .174 to .152, while raising her innings from 126 1/3 to 174 and her strikeouts from 141 to 271. She was a first-team All-Tri-River Athletic Conference selection.
Building her résumé: Lung is 43-5 in her career with 412 strikeouts in 302 1/3 innings. Her crowning achievement to date came last season when she became the first freshman in Clovis’ storied history to pitch a no-hitter in a section final, leading the Cougars past Central 2-0 for the D-I title. It’s a feat unmatched by past Clovis greats such as Amanda Scott, Jamie Southern and Jennifer Reynolds.
He said it: “As great a year as she had as a freshman, she improved as a sophomore. Her dominance allowed us as a young team (the Cougars started seven sophomores or freshmen) to be successful. She allowed us to go through some growing pains and still be a successful team. I know we aren’t where we are at the end of the year if not for her ability to keep us in games. One of the great things for us is she is a hard worker. I see her continuing to get better each year, and it’s a scary thought how good she can become.” – Clovis coach Mike Noel
Coach of the Year: Dean Gregory
He’s qualified because: Gregory led the Bears to their third Central Section title in his 13 seasons as coach, unseating defending Division I champion Clovis with a 2-0 victory over the Cougars at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond. It capped a 26-5 season that saw Buchanan finish No. 12 in CalHiSports’ D-I rankings. The Bears won their sixth Tri-River Athletic Conference title under Gregory, who was also honored as The Bee’s Coach of the Year in 2004 in his first season after taking over for Del January. Gregory has gone 345-114-5, including three section runner-up finishes, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
Pieces in place: Gregory returned seven players – second baseman Katie Jackson, outfielder/pitcher Katie January, third baseman Faith Rousey, designated hitter Katy Ridener, outfielder Spencer Sansom, first baseman Starr Vang and shortstop Sienna Swain – who participated in Buchanan’s unexpected run as a seventh seed to the 2014 Division I final. That group – with key contributions from pitcher Molly Millar, catcher Anni Raley and outfielder Hunter Sansom, caught fire at midseason, winning 18 of their final 20 games.
He said it: “I was really proud of the girls and how they kept improving as the season went on. It was fun to watch them down the stretch because they played with great confidence. It seemed they played as one. The real key with that group was they really had a passion to win. That was what it was about, to come out and play their best and win the game. And that’s not always there in high school athletics every day. It can become individual, but they had a team camaraderie and a passion to win.”
- Amanda Acosta, senior, SS-OF, Exeter
- Jyllian Ahart, senior, 3B-1B-P, Bullard
- Kristen Arias, sophomore, C, Edison
- Alisha Beltran, senior, SS-3B-P, Parlier
- Liliana Berber, senior, P, Firebaugh
- Mackenzie Byrd, junior, OF, Clovis
- Alyssa Caballero, senior, 3B, Clovis
- Arianna Castillo, sophomore, SS, Bullard
- Serenity Castillo, senior, 1B-OF, Hanford
- Emily Chavira, senior, 1B-P, Madera
- Cassidy Clark, senior, SS-2B, Clovis West
- Kaitlyn Coffman, sophomore, SS, Mt. Whitney
- Lauren Costa, senior, P, Reedley
- Aaliyah Cuevas, junior, OF-INF, Madera
- Jessica Dondlinger, junior, C, Fowler
- Madison Emerson, senior, P, Porterville
- Mya Felder, sophomore, 3B, Clovis East
- Sofia Garcia, junior, P-1B, Fresno
- Anyssa Garvin, senior, P, Hanford
- Sarah Gonzalez, junior, INF, Kingsburg
- Hallie Harger, junior, 2B-SS, Hanford West
- Patty Hernandez, senior, C-INF, Orange Cove
- Katie Jackson, junior, 2B, Buchanan
- Presley Jameson, senior, P, Tulare
- Janessa Jaso, freshman, P, Dos Palos
- Sydney Kuma, freshman, P, Caruthers
- Serena Lewis, senior, SS, Roosevelt
- Alina Leyva, senior, 3B-UTL, Firebaugh
- Jordyn Macias, sophomore, SS-C, Hanford West
- Jordyn Martinez, sophomore, C, Clovis
- Molly Millar, sophomore, P, Buchanan
- Camryn Monreal, junior, 1B, Clovis East
- Arianna Navarrete, senior, OF, Central
- Anisah Navarro, senior, 2B, Selma
- Katelyn Ochoa, junior, 1B, Kerman
- Mariah Patterson, senior, P-SS, Dinuba
- Savanna Pena, junior, OF, Selma
- Chelsea Ramos, junior, 3B-C, Monache
- Destiny Ricks, sophomore, P, Madera
- Chloe Rivas, sophomoree, P-1B-3B, Monache
- Faith Rousey, senior, 3B, Buchanan
- Cassidy Santa Cruz, senior, P-1B, Liberty-Madera Ranchos
- Spencer Sansom, senior, OF, Buchanan
- Jocelyn Simon, junior, OF, Sunnyside
- Ally Tolbert, senior, C-3B, Sierra Pacific
- Serena Torres, senior, 1B-3B-SS, Riverdale
- Starr Vang, senior, 1B, Buchanan
- Linnay Wilson, junior, P-3B-SS, Coalinga
- Genesis Zamora, senior, 3B, Immanuel