The right players came up at the right time to propel Clovis High into the semifinals of the Clovis Easter Classic softball tournament.
First, Cayla Broussard forced extra innings with a clutch hit.
Then, Cameryn Reichle delivered the game-winner as The Bee’s Central Section top-ranked Cougars rallied to beat No. 5 Hanford West 4-3 in eight innings to cap a 4-0 run through their pool.
Clovis will face No. 4 Bullard on Field 2, while No. 2 Central and No. 3 Buchanan square off on Field 1 on Tuesday as The Bee’s top four teams advanced to the 3 p.m. semifinals. The final of the 20-team tournament featuring 10 of The Bee’s top 15 is set for 5 p.m. on Field 1.
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“This shows we’re a strong team,” Reichle said. “We’re definitely in it to do some damage.”
Reichle, the Cougars’ No. 3-hitter, ripped an opposite-field drive to the fence in left with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the eighth to bring Lyndsay Hathaway home with the winning run. Hathaway had tied the score 3-3 three batters earlier with a one-out, run-scoring single that brought home Kristina Ortiz, who opened the inning at third base under tiebreaker rules.
This coming after Hanford West had taken a 3-2 lead on Kristen Heffley’s run-scoring single in the top of the eighth.
“It was all about the team,” Reichle said. “We used our speed and I took it upon myself as the No. 3 batter to drive them in. We don’t give up. Our pitcher (Brielle Vidmar) was throwing an amazing game. So we had to do it for us and come together and do something great.”
Clovis (17-2) trailed 2-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth, but Hathaway drew a bases-loaded walk to slice the deficit in half, then four-year starting shortstop Broussard slapped a two-out, two-strike single over the third baseman’s head to bring in courtesy runner Tori Mueller to tie it.
“It was nerve-racking, but this is the stuff we prepare for in practice,” Broussard said. “We did well under the pressure. We’re about fight until the end, and that’s what we did.”
Cougars coach Mike Noel had watched his team squander chances in the first and third innings before Broussard and Reichle came through.
“Cayla is our best hitter in terms of base hits and that’s what we needed right there,” Noel said. “And Cameryn is our best hitter at knocking in runs. So things fell in place for us.”
The semifinals also feature 4-0 teams in Bullard and Buchanan.
The Knights capped their perfect run with a 9-8, come-from-behind win over Hanford that saw Jahara Wakeel single in the go-ahead run during a five-run fourth inning. Sienna Kendricks doubled twice and knocked in three runs for Bullard.
The Bears punctuated their 4-0 run through pool play with an 11-2 win over Lemoore that featured a four-RBI effort from Katy Ridener as well as a double and two RBIs from Spencer Sansom.
Central, meanwhile, earned its spot in the semis with a 9-2 win over Clovis North with Gianna Mancha and Arianna Naverette each knocking in two runs. The Grizzlies went 3-1 in pool play.
The last time Rylee Pierce played at the Buchanan Softball Complex, she blasted four home runs and knocked in 11 runs while helping El Diamante go 7-0 en route to winning the Clovis Easter Classic title in 2013.
But the Missouri-bound senior slugger was limited to the role of unofficial assistant coach during last season’s tournament, part of a junior season lost entirely to a left knee injury suffered playing basketball that required reconstructive surgery on her ACL.
After nine months of rehab, Pierce is back in action for a Miners team that is 2-2 heading into its Classic finale on Tuesday against Reedley.
She’s hitting .500 with 23 RBIs in 17 games, numbers similar to the .511 average and 51 RBIs in 31 games Pierce posted in 2013 while emerging as one of the Central Section’s elite players. But after slugging a section-leading 14 home runs as a sophomore, she has just two this season.
Pierce, however, doesn’t worry about the decline in power and said it’s unrelated to the knee injury. She’s been walked in 11 of her 63 plate appearances this season and doesn’t often see fastballs down the middle.
“Not as many home runs, obviously, but I don’t think it’s a knee problem,” Pierce said. “I think it’s more of a getting a good pitch to hit problem. I’ve been getting a lot of walks.
“But I don’t really hit home runs. I hit the ball hard and get RBIs. If it goes over, it goes over. RBIs are what I’m looking for. If we have runners on, I’ll score them. That’s my job.”
Pierce stayed in the game mentally last season by calling pitches for El Diamante coach Brad Pendergast. But she’s glad to give up coaching to be back on the field, where she is now the Miners’ catcher after playing third base as a freshman and shortstop as a sophomore.
“It definitely makes you appreciate it,” Pierce said of her time on the sidelines. “Never again will I walk to my position. Never again will I take the game for granted. It’s nice to be back on the field for sure.”