Clovis News: Sports

D-I softball race is anyone's guess

Bullard and Stockdale highs - two of the hottest softball teams in the Central Section - hold the top two seeds for the Division I playoffs.

But neither Knights coach Jaime Maxey nor Mustangs coach Amanda Hockett believe homefield advantage is a sure-fire path to the final on May 28.

"This is kind of a year where it could go to anybody," said Maxey, whose team has won a section-best 15 straight games, including a 10-0 run through the County/Metro Athletic Conference. "Every game is going to be a battle. I don't see a dominant situation."

Hockett, whose team won nine straight en route to capturing the Southwest Yosemite League title, agrees.

"You don't have the powerhouse teams you've had in the past," Hockett said. "Everyone's pretty even. We're going through a wave of good athletes, with a lot more good athletes on each team. Overall, it's a lot more well-rounded talent and not just a couple star players."

The Division I field is so balanced that last year's finalists - champion Centennial and Madera - are the fifth and 10th seeds, despite winning a more-than-respectable 23 and 20 games, respectively.

Central, champion of the Tri-River Athletic Conference, the section's toughest league top to bottom, received the third seed.

And perennial powers such as Buchanan (three section titles), Clovis West (three) and Clovis (seven) are seeded fourth, seventh and ninth, respectively.

The playoffs begin today with No. 8 Clovis East hosting Clovis and Madera traveling to Clovis West for the right to join the quarterfinalists of the 10-team field.

"It makes it very interesting. You don't take anyone for granted," Central coach Scott Gorton said. "There are times you get a matchup in the first round where one team is clearly better than another. But you can't overlook anyone here. If you do, you can get beat and be sitting at home when you thought you were going to go a lot further."

Division II: Tulare Western - behind shortstop/outfielder MacKenzie Mendonca (.467, 5 HRs, 29 RBIs) - has supplanted city rival and defending division champion Tulare as the team to beat.

Jessica Duran (.406, 13 RBIs) helped Golden West win its final seven games to overtake last season's runner-up El Diamante for the West Yosemite League title and the division's second seed.

Division III: In a division that didn't produce a league champion, Golden Valley was given the top seed based on a division-best 24 victories.

But keep an eye out for fourth-seeded Hanford West in this division. The Huskies - who feature a lineup with all freshmen and sophomores, led by pitcher/first baseman Breanna Young - have played and beaten some of the section's best Division I and II teams this season.

Division IV: South Sequoia League champion Wasco smashed its way to the top seed with an offense that's batting .332 with 13 home runs on the season.

Second-seeded Washington cost itself a shot at the No. 1 seed with a loss in its regular-season finale, but still features the section's top hitter in Tori Rich (.620) and top strikeout artist Kassandra Workentine (250), according to statistics recorded on maxpreps.com.

Division V: Thanks to a pair of head-to-head victories over defending champion Fowler, Riverdale has emerged as the team to beat in Division V behind the bat of Kendra Monteiro and pitching of Elizabeth Carreiro and Janae Errotabere.

Third-seeded Firebaugh and Danica Preciado (24 RBIs in 25 games) also figures to be in the mix.

Division VI: Seeking its first section title in 15 years, Laton was given the top seed in this four-team field that begins play today, crowns its first champion Thursday and features two other East Sierra League schools in No. 2 McFarland and No. 3 Kings Christian.

The Mustangs are powered by the bats of Monica Castaneda (.451, 1 HR) and Brianna Adams (.426, 3 HRs)

Mendota of the Northwest Sierra League rounds out the field as the fourth seed.

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