Faith Rousey hasn’t forgotten May 23, 2014.
That was the day the Buchanan High School softball team entered the Central Section Division I championship game 19-17 with eight sophomore or freshman starters, including Rousey, and absorbed a 10-0 mercy-rule loss in five innings against Centennial.
“We’ve been working since that day to get back in this position,” Rousey said. “It fuels our fire, definitely.”
With Rousey delivering three hits and four RBIs, the top-seeded Bears returned to the D-I final with an 8-2 victory over No. 4 Stockdale on Wednesday at the Buchanan Softball Complex.
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Buchanan (25-5) will face No. 2 Clovis for the title at 7 p.m. Saturday at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond, site of the section’s six finals.
We’ve been working since that day to get back in this position. It fuels our fire, definitely.
Buchanan’s Faith Rousey, one of six returning starters from a team that lost 10-0 in five innings to Centennial for the 2014 Central Section Division I title
Unlike 2014, when the seventh-seeded Bears unexpectedly advanced to the final with a young group, this Buchanan team features six third-year starters – Rousey, Sienna Swain, Katie Jackson, Spencer Sansom, Starr Vang and Katie January – and own an eight-game winning streak.
All six contributed a hit or run, including Vang’s run-scoring single in the bottom of the third that gave Buchanan the lead for good at 2-1.
After Stockdale (20-5) tied the score 1-1 in the top of the third on Cheyenne Hornbuckle’s RBI double, the Bears responded with Jackson drawing a one-out walk, moving to second on a wild pitch and scoring when Vang drilled a line drive up the middle.
“I felt like I had to have a good at-bat, with a clear mind,” Vang said. “I knew this pitcher was a low-ball pitcher so I had to stay on top of it and get it through the infield the way I can.”
Buchanan added to its lead in the fifth as Swain reached on an error and scored on Rousey’s infield single.
The Bears put it out of reach with a five-run sixth highlighted by Rousey’s three-run double.
“Our team has worked so hard all year long,” Rousey said. “Honestly, we deserved this and I knew I needed to put my team in a situation where we made it to Saturday.
“Molly (Millar) had been pitching a great game all day long and we had a solid lead, but the more runs, the better. I knew it would help our team out.”
Swain added an RBI double and scored on a delayed double-steal as Buchanan took an 8-1 lead into the seventh.
“They can be held down for a few innings and all of a sudden score five like they did today,” Bears coach Dean Gregory said. “They are a good hitting team, and they’ve been doing it all year.”
Buchanan – which also received three hits and two runs from Jackson, a run from Sansom and a hit and steal from January – will be playing for its sixth section championship. The Bears last won the D-I title in 2009.
“At the start of the year, I told them they were as good as anybody, and we just had to put it together,” Gregory said. “It took us awhile to get going, but once we’ve gotten going, we’re playing pretty good softball.”
Clovis 2, Clovis East 0 – Sophomore Danielle Lung pitched a two-hitter and struck out 15 for her 43rd career victory as the second-seeded Cougars (24-4) won at home against the No. 3 Timberwolves (19-10).
Lung, whose no-hitter beat Central 2-0 in last year’s D-I final, improved to 22-3 while lowering her earned-run average to 1.00. Her sixth strikeout in this one was the 400th of her career.
Jordyn Martinez, one of four sophomores starting in a Cougars lineup with only two seniors, drove an RBI double off the left-field fence in the third, and Mackenzie Byrd hit a two-run homer in the sixth. It was the junior left fielder’s first homer of the season.
Freshman Taja Felder went the distance for Clovis East, which split with Clovis in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
Division II – Sequoia Brewer singled in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth to lift No. 2 Monache over No. 6 Redwood 2-1 and into Friday’s 7 p.m. final.
The Marauders will face defending division champion Madera, which beat No. 4 Sanger 5-0.
Division III – Anyssa Garvin belted a three-run homer in the fourth to power No. 2 Hanford to a 10-0 victory over No. 3 Taft.
The Bullpups will face No. 8 Independence at 2 p.m. Saturday after the Falcons upset No. 3 Tehachapi 7-6.
Division IV – Top-seeded Selma scored three runs in the first without a hit, thanks to three walks, and added two in the fifth, again without a hit, en route to a 10-2 victory over No. 4 Dos Palos.
Hailey Garcia surrendered one earned run in seven innings for the Bears, who will face defending division champion and second-seeded Mission Oak at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The Hawks received RBIs from Aubrey Cardoza, Alicia Ruiz and Larissa Molezzo to back the shutout pitching of Mariah Mazon in a 4-0 win over No. 6 Madera South.
Division V – Hope Delgado’s walk-off single lifted top-seeded Caruthers over No. 4 Kern Valley 3-2 in eight innings.
The Blue Raiders will face No. 2 Firebaugh at 4:30 p.m. Friday after the Eagles beat No. 3 Riverdale 4-3.
Division VI – No. 1 Orange Cove reached the 4:30 p.m. Saturday final with a 9-1 victory over No. 5 Frazier Mountain. The Titans will face No. 2 Parlier, which topped No. 3 Mendota 10-7.