Behind a one-hit, 13-strikeout performance from Danielle Lung, The Bee’s Central Section top-ranked Clovis High defeated No. 3 Clovis East 4-0 in a showdown of two of the three teams who entered Friday’s game tied for first place in the Tri-River Athletic Conference softball race.
The Cougars (20-3, 5-1) now share the lead with No. 2 Buchanan (19-5, 5-1), which beat No. 5 Central 10-0. The Timberwolves (16-8, 4-2) are a game back with four remaining in a regular season that ends May 13.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
No. 1: Danielle Lung is the section’s best pitcher – The sophomore right-hander just keeps getting stronger.
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After giving up eight hits in a 4-2, eight-inning loss to Clovis East on April 12, Lung rebounded by allowing only a second-inning single to center by Makaela Hirsch-Ward. Lung struck out at least two batters in six of seven innings – against a very good hitting team.
No. 2: Top seed a lock to come from the TRAC – It’s hard to see the section’s brass not giving the top seed in the Division I playoffs to the team that wins the TRAC title, be it Clovis, Buchanan or even Clovis East.
Because the top contender for the No. 1 seed out of Kern County – Stockdale – has losses this season to Clovis East, D-II schools Madera and El Diamante and D-IV Mission Oak. The Mustangs are cruising now, winners of 13 straight and leading the Southwest Yosemite League at 11-0, but those pre-league losses will prevent them from landing the top seed.
And the top contender out of the County/Metro Athletic Conference, Bullard, has multiple losses to Central, Clovis and Buchanan, as well as one to Madera.
It’s probably not a stretch to say, but count on the top seed going to the TRAC champion.
No. 3: Clovis can make adjustments – In its first meeting against Clovis East, Clovis struck out 12 times against Timberwolves freshman Taja Felder. The Cougars cut that number to four in the rematch, while getting five hits off her, including a run-scoring double from Grace Henson and an RBI single by Tori Mueller.
“Everyone was ready. We knew we could beat them and we were pumped,” said Mueller, who went 2 for 3. “This shows we can come out even after a loss and play to our full potential.
No. 4: The future is bright at Clovis East – The Timberwolves, who haven’t had a winning season since 2009 and only three since 2005, didn’t have a senior on the field Friday against Clovis.
Clovis East starts two freshmen (Syrena Garcia and Taja Felder), a sophomore (Mya Felder) and seven juniors (Taniya Maldonado, Camryn Monreal, Emilee Lear, Makaela Hirsh-Ward, Taylor Solley, Alexis Parras and Kassandra Expose).
Their rise to TRAC contention mirrors the rises made this year by the school’s volleyball and girls soccer programs, which each captured section Division I titles for the first time in school history.
“It’s been a learning process,” Clovis East coach Bryce Kamimoto said. “The girls who have been here have never been in this position before. This group has never experienced anything but beat-downs (in the TRAC). Expecting to compete and playing to win is part of the culture change here.”
No. 5: Timberwolves will be factor … this season – Clovis coach Mike Noel said upstart Clovis East will be heard from during the rest of the TRAC race and into the postseason.
“The middle of their order is as good as anyone around and their pitcher is very good with good speed,” Noel said. “Their time is now, not in the future.”