With a 6-0 win against Clovis West on Friday, May 12, The Clovis High softball team guaranteed itself a share of the Tri-River League title with Central.
The Cougars finished the season 22-6 overall, 8-2 in league, winning their last two games against Buchanan and Clovis West.
“We’re very proud of our effort,” Clovis head coach Mike Noel said. “Anytime you’re 8-2 in TRAC, you’ve had a nice year. We’re in a tough league and to come out as co-champs, we’re really happy with that.”
Against Clovis West (8-21, 0-10), the Cougars took a 1-0 lead after the first inning, but didn’t blow the game open until the fourth inning when they scored three runs.
“I don’t think it was our best effort today, but I like the way we rebounded from our start, put some runs on the board late,” Noel said.
Clovis West gained momentum in the final inning, but junior pitcher Danielle Lung was able to keep the Eagles scoreless despite giving up two walks. Lung finished the game with nine strikeouts.
“Maybe we were relaxing a little soon, but Danielle gives us a chance to win every game. Today was no exception. She was dominant,” Noel said. “As good as she is all the time, she gave up two walks in the last inning. She deserves one of those every once in awhile.”
Whether it’s against top teams or against struggling teams like Clovis West, Noel said he is always looking for his team to be competitive. Particularly as the team goes into the playoffs, Noel believes that his team’s competitive spirit can make big a difference.
“You’re gonna face pitchers that are coming after you and teams that are as good as you,” Noel said. “A lot of the times it comes down to the most competitive team, the team that is refusing to lose. That’s the mindset we’re trying to have.”
Junior Emily Puente also made her mark in the win against Clovis West, hitting a home run in the fourth inning to bring in two runs.
As a junior, Puente takes pride in her leadership.
“Anytime when my team is struggling, it’s part of my job to get them up,” Puente said. “Every now and then, they need a couple of words of encouragement and I give that to them. They’re pretty good about picking up on it and they work their hardest.”
The team has only four seniors on the roster, but Noel is happy with how his leaders have stepped up this season.
“McKenzie Bird is our senior that starts. She’s the heart and soul of our team,” Noel said. “Then we have Jordan Martinez and Emily Puente. They’re kind of the on-the-field, middle-of-our-order type of girls that drive in runs and provide some spark. Then we have other girls that do their part, Ashley Kincaid and Tori Mueller. It’s a team effort. We talk about being 18 strong.”
Last season, the Cougars made it to the Valley Championship, where they lost 2-0 against Buchanan.
This season, the Cougars have earned the No. 4 seed in the Division I playoffs and will enjoy a bye in the first round. The Cougars first playoff game will be on Nov. 18 against Clovis West or Bullard.
“Our focus shifts directly to Valley playoffs now,” Noel said. “We’re looking to come out playing our best.”