Cayla Broussard believes the Clovis High softball team has learned from its past mistakes.
And unlike a season ago, the Cougars aren’t limping toward the No. 1 seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs.
Broussard singled, doubled and scored twice to help The Bee’s No. 2-ranked Clovis High defeat No. 1 Buchanan 5-2 on Tuesday to take over sole possession of first place in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.
The TRAC champion appears to be the clear favorite to gain the No. 1 seed when they are announced Saturday considering the league’s top three teams (Clovis, Buchanan and Central) are a combined 6-0 against the top two teams from the Southwest Yosemite League (Centennial and Stockdale), 5-1 vs. County/Metro Athletic Conference champ Bullard and 2-1 against West Yosemite League champ Hanford West.
And the Cougars (29-6, 7-2) can capture the TRAC title outright with a win at Clovis West on Friday in their regular-season finale.
Clovis, which has won five straight GAMES, is closing this season much differently than it did a year ago when it backed into the No. 1 seed with losses in two of its last three TRAC games, then got upset by No. 5 Centennial in the semifinals of the playoffs.
“In the past, we’ve had a good preseason and when the games get more intense, we choked,” Broussard said. “This team is different. We took little steps and are growing practice to practice, game to game. There is a fire in us. We can’t let it slip away this time.”
Broussard sparked two Clovis rallies, as she singled and scored on Lyndsay Hathaway’s fielder’s choice in the first inning to tie the score 1-1, then she doubled to lead off the third and scored on Cameryn Reichle’s single. Reichle would late score on Alyssa Caballero’s single as the Cougars took a 3-1 lead they would not relinquish.
Buchanan (25-7, 6-3) made it 3-2 in the fourth on a solo home run by Katie January, but failed to cash in on a two-on, no-outs situation in the seventh to fall out of a tie for first place in the TRAC.
Clovis added two insurance runs in the sixth on an RBI single from Kennedy Diaz and an RBI ground out from Broussard.
“I feel like we are tested and ascending right now,” Cougars coach Mike Noel said. “Last year we stumbled to the finish. But now we’re doing what it takes to win big games.”
Buchanan, Central or both could still tie Clovis for the TRAC title on Friday, which puts the Cougars’ focus squarely on Clovis West, which they beat 10-0 in the first round.
“I think my girls deserve the No. 1 seed,” Noel said. “But we’re not thinking about that now. We’ve got to go out and play our best on Friday. The seeding takes care of itself. They will do a good job as they always do. Our focus is Friday.”