Danielle Lung, on a day she battled a 102-degree fever, was hotter than normal in the circle – and normal’s scalding – while hurling Clovis High School into yet another Central Section Division I softball championship Wednesday night.
The sophomore right-hander pitched a two-hitter and struck out 15 for her 43rd career win, and Mackenzie Byrd hit a key single and two-run homer as the second-seeded Cougars won 4-0 at home to Clovis East.
That vaulted Clovis (25-4) into Saturday’s D-I final against top-seeded Buchanan (25-5) at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond at 7 p.m. The Cougars and Bears split 1-0 decisions in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, which Buchanan won with a 9-1 record.
Lung (22-3) and Buchanan sophomore Molly Millar (17-2) will go at it again.
“Two good pitchers,” Clovis coach Mike Noel said. “I think it will be an old-school softball game.”
The Cougars, behind Lung’s no-hitter, beat Central 2-0 for last year’s title. It was the program’s eighth section title, including six under Noel.
Lung, even more deceptive than her wicked changeup, didn’t inform her coach of the sickness until after Wednesday’s game.
The adrenaline made me forget about it.
Clovis’ Danielle Lung on pitching, and winning, in a Central Section playoff semifinal while battling a 102-degree fever
“Good thing I didn’t know,” he laughed. “They know how to handle me.”
Unfazed by the illness, Lung’s sixth strikeout to open the third was career No. 400. And she struck out the side in the seventh to end it.
“It didn’t bother me,” she said, “because the adrenaline made me forget about it.”
The adrenaline is sure to reach another level Saturday, marching into the circle at the college she committed to a couple of months ago.
“I’ll feel especially great playing on my future college field,” Lung said.
Then there’s Byrd, whose fifth-inning single – helping set up a Clovis run off Clovis East freshman Taja Felder – was as impressive as the home run.
On the off-field single to left, she showed excellent bat control, feigning bunt, pulling the bat back and driving the ball over the head of Timberwolves third baseman Mya Felder, who was charging toward the plate.
Byrd, who entered the game batting .381, followed Taylor Tiger’s single with the home run to right-center the following inning.
“When I hit it,” she said, “I was actually kind of scared. I was like, ‘Please don’t catch it, please don’t catch it.’ It was exciting because Taylor was on base and (Lung) was pitching awesome.”