Prep Baseball & Softball

Central Section softball finals: Rousey, Buchanan run to D-I title

Faith Rousey, who will return to Margie Wright Diamond as a Bulldog in the fall, got an early start on making big plays on her new home field.

The Buchanan High senior and Fresno State recruit hit a slicing fly ball that fell in front of a charging outfielder and rolled to the fence, allowing Rousey to round the bases with the game’s first run as the top-seeded Bears topped defending champ and No. 2-seeded Clovis 2-0 on Saturday for the Central Section Division I softball title.

It was Buchanan’s fifth section softball title but first since 2009.

“I went up to the plate thinking one pitch and I got it,” Rousey said. “I was thinking just base hits is all we need to start a rally. Coach (Dean) Gregory kept waving me home, and I was going for it. I knew our team needed to get an early lead.”

Rousey burned Clovis for the second time in three weeks. Her run-scoring single in the third inning was the difference in Buchanan’s 1-0 win on May 10 that helped the Bears go on to win the Tri-River Athletic Conference title and secure the No. 1 playoff seed.

Then Saturday, the left-handed hitter sent a slicing fly ball out toward the left-field line with one out in the bottom of the second inning.

Clovis’ left fielder sprinted over to cut it off, but the ball got by her and rolled to the fence. By the time the ball was tracked down and relayed to the catcher, Rousey had slid safely across the plate for an inside-the-park home run.

“I saw it get by the left fielder and she was struggling to find it,” Gregory said. “Faith’s not the fleetest of foot, but as she approached third I thought we might not have another opportunity to score a run. You know the last two games have been 1-0, so I just sent her and luckily she got in there.”

Buchanan (26-5) added a run in the third when Hunter Sansom, who had walked and stole second, scored on a bad-hop single to right by Sienna Swain.

“Hit a ball hard on the ground somewhere,” Swain said of her approach. “(Danielle Lung) has a lot strikeouts normally, so our mindset was just get the ball in play and see what happens. It worked out to our advantage.

“We’ve been working hard all year. I’s great to get it done finally. As a senior it means everything.”

That would be all Bears sophomore right-hander Molly Millar would need.

Miller worked out of trouble early, having at least two runners on base in each of the first three innings, but settled down to pitch a three-hitter and her second shutout of Clovis this season.

“Once I got them on base I had to do my best to let my team have the best chance at winning,” Millar said. “I knew I had a great team behind me and that if that they put it in play, my teammates would make the play.”

Buchanan struggled early in the season, losing to Division I rivals Clovis East, Central and Bullard over its first 11 games, but turned things around when the Bears won the Arroyo Grande Tournament at the start of April. They closed the season 18-2 and winners of their final nine games.

“I’m so proud of this team. I told them at the beginning of the year, and now I’ll be 100 percent honest, that we were the best team and we should win it,” Gregory said. “I firmly believed that at the time, although they made me doubt them a little bit through the first 10 games because we had some major hiccups. But once they started playing well over at the coast and coming back to league, I think they showed they are the best team in the Valley.”

Clovis, which rode then-freshman Lung’s no-hitter to last season’s D-I title, failed to capitalize with two runners on and one out in the first, bases loaded with one out in the second and two-on with two out in the third. The Cougars (25-5) also had a runner at second with one out in the fifth and couldn’t convert.

“I think it was a great pitchers’ duel,” Clovis coach Mike Noel said. “We let (Millar) off the hook in the first few innings, and that was her doing. She made some great pitches. We look forward to getting back out here and doing it all over again next season.”

Nick Giannandrea: 559-441-6103, @NickG_FB

Buchanan 2, Clovis 0

Clovis (25-5)

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Buchanan (26-5)

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WP: Molly Millar (7Ks). LP: Danielle Lung (3Ks). C, Alyssa Caballero 1-3; Ashley Kincaid 1-2; Grace Henson 1-3. B, Faith Rousey 1-2, HR, R, RBI; Sienna Swain 2-2, RBI; Hunter Sansom R, SB.Buchanan 2, Clovis 0

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