Clovis News: Sports

Buchanan cruises to softball tournament title

This does not bode well for the rest of the Central Section.

Defending Division I softball champion Buchanan High was far from perfect Tuesday night in the final of the Clovis Easter Classic.

The typically strong-on-defense Bears made three errors, and ace pitcher Natalie Rendon surrendered an uncharacteristic six hits and four walks.

Yet the Bears still plowed to a decisive 5-1 victory over Clovis West to win the 20-team tournament title at the Buchanan Softball Complex, proving why they are the team to beat this season.

Buchanan -- top-ranked by The Bee -- is the section's only undefeated team at 17-0 and is riding a 23-game winning streak dating to last season.

"It's exciting. They are playing well," Bears coach Dean Gregory said. "The key is to keep focused, because obviously, at 17-0, you have a target on your back."

The Bears entered this tournament a year ago as the section's hottest team at 12-1-1 only to go 2-2 in bracket play and miss out on the semifinals.

But Buchanan had no problems this time, outscoring its opponents 35-3 while going 4-0 in pool play, then dispatching fourth-ranked Clovis East 6-0 earlier Tuesday in the semifinals.

"We have not played our best here the past couple of years," Bears first baseman Kelsey Dodd said. "So to come out and win this was really great."

Bailey O'Dell helped put the Bears up 1-0 against No. 2 Clovis West (15-4) when she opened the second inning with a triple and scored on Taylor Wright's sacrifice fly.

Buchanan made it 3-0 in the fourth with the help of two Golden Eagles' errors. Wright contributed an RBI single after the inning was extended by an error, and Dodd scored the second run when a potential inning-ending groundball was booted.

"When you play a team that can hit the ball like Buchanan, a mistake can really hurt you," Clovis West co-coach Peggy Rigby said.

The Bears added to their lead in the fifth on Dodd's two-run, inside-the-park homer, an opposite-field drive that sliced out of the reach of Clovis West left fielder Ashley De La Cruz and rolled to the fence.

"I just went with the pitch," Dodd said. "I was focused on getting a hit."

Clovis West, however, didn't go down quietly.

The Golden Eagles had runners at the corners with two outs and their best hitter -- Leesa Gresham -- at the plate, but Bailey made a spectacular play in the hole at short and threw out Gresham to end the fifth inning.

And in the seventh, Buchanan center fielder Amani Proctor robbed Gresham on a shot that looked destined to reach the fence with two runners on.

"I have a great defense behind me," Rendon said. "I just had to throw the ball and let them do what they do."