Danielle Lung had one thought before walking out to the circle on her future college field in the top of the seventh: Let’s finish this.
And the Clovis superstar senior did just that, retiring Buchanan in order and finishing off her illustrious career with a strikeout, carrying the senior laden Cougars to a 6-3 win and their third Central Section D-I title in four years on a refreshingly cool night at Margie Wright Diamond.
“It’s a special group,” Clovis coach Mike Noel said about the group of seniors. “To win three out of four is pretty special … I really wanted it bad for them.”
Standing in the Cougars’ way was Stanford-bound pitcher Molly Millar and a tough Buchanan team they had beaten three times – once in the championship game of the Easter Classic and twice in league.
Clovis (30-2, school record for winning percentage) jumped out to a four run lead in the second inning on a Tori Mueller bases loaded walk followed by a Jordyn Martinez single that got by the left fielder, clearing the bases. The rally started with no one on and two outs.
“I knew I had to get something done and have a good at-bat for my team,” said Martinez, Lung’s battery-mate for three seasons.
Buchanan (26-5) would cut the lead 4-2 in the fifth with a pair of two-out singles by Emily Cazeras and Claire Buckley but Clovis junior Allie Puente answered back with a 2-run triple in the bottom of the inning.
“For them to score two and for us to answer right back and score two, I thought was the difference in the game mentally,” Noel said. “To squash their energy and momentum was big for us.”
It was the fourth time Clovis beat Buchanan this season.
Lung finished the season an unprecedented 25-0, ending her career with 91 victories.
But it certainly wasn’t easy as the Fresno State-bound fireballer gave up nine hits, a season high.
“To go through the season she had at 25-0, I can’t even contemplate how great that is,” Noel said of Lung. “When it mattered the most she got three straight outs. It’s been an incredible four years”
Lung burst onto the softball scene midway through her freshman year, firing a no-hitter in the Valley title game, a 2-0 win over Central. The Cougars lost 2-0 to Buchanan in 2016 and beat Central 2-1 last year.
The experience of Lung and the nine seniors played a huge role.
“We’ve been together for so long, I am so close to them,” Lung said about her class that also includes Elaine Caballero, Ashley Kincaid, Coryn Chiaramonte, Jenna Scarborough and school career home run leader Emily Puente, tied with Martinez with 19. “I love them like sisters, there’s no other way to put it.”
Overall, it was the the school’s 10th title, Noel coaching the last eight. The Cougars are currently ranked No. 6 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and 24 in the nation by MaxPreps.
“I rode them pretty tough all year and they just took it and understood,” Noel said. “There will be a lot of good memories with this team, there’s a lot of good character kids on this team.”