With an offense as good as any around -- and an efficient pitching staff to match -- it's easy to see why the Buchanan High softball team has had its way with the Central Section this season.
But what has really set the top-seeded Bears apart while going a section-best 31-3 is their defense, which was flawless during a 4-3 Division I quarterfinal victory over eighth-seeded Central on Friday at the Buchanan Softball Complex.
Defending Division I champion Buchanan advances to host No. 5 Clovis, a 5-0 upset winner over No. 4 Liberty, in a semifinal Wednesday.
While the Grizzlies committed four errors, the Bears made all the routine plays and a couple of tough ones, too, with second baseman Dom Selby's running catch behind the bag to rob Brittny Embrey of a hit in the third inning and shortstop Bailey O'Dell's lightning-quick start of a double-play to erase a one-on, one-out threat in the fifth.
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"Our defense gives our pitcher confidence and picks up our offense," O'Dell said. "A bunch of us have played together a long time. We are confident that no matter where the ball is hit, we are going to make the play."
Buchanan, upset 3-0 last week by the Grizzlies, capitalized on one of Central's two first-inning errors to go up 2-0. A misplay of Kelsey Dodd's grounder to the pitcher extended the inning for Sam Mendoza and Jen Maynez to hit RBI singles.
An RBI triple by Dodd and a run-scoring single by O'Dell put the Bears up 4-0 in the third inning.
"We came out fired up," Dodd said. "Last time [against Central,] we got shut out, so we were jumping on the ball. We wanted to avenge our loss."
The Grizzlies, however, refused to go quietly with Cierra Mullins' run-scoring single in the fifth and Randi Chavira's two-run single in the sixth. But Central would strand the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first in the final two innings.
"We played tight at the beginning and our defense got us in the hole a little," Central coach Scott Gorton said. "Once we loosened up, we played the game we're capable of playing and got back in it."