The softball league opener between the TRAC’s top two teams certainly mattered, and this time their aces were on display.
In a much-anticipated pitching matchup between Clovis’ Danielle Lung and Buchanan’s Molly Millar, it was the Cougars’ opportunistic offense and dominant pitching that helped propel Clovis to a 5-2 win in a hotly contested April 10 game in front of a large and boisterous crowd at Buchanan.
The hard-throwing Lung struck out 13 through five innings and finished with 16 in a complete game victory, allowing six hits.
“I think Danielle’s performance was one of her best,” Clovis coach Mike Noel said. “Buchanan’s lineup is dangerous and she battled with them all night.”
Lung has already had an illustrious career since she threw a no-hitter in the D-I Central Section championship game as a freshman, a 1-0 win over Central.
The tall and hard-throwing righty got plenty of run support as Clovis scored single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings on an infield single from freshman Maddy Arnold, an RBI single from Emily Puente, and Tori Mueller’s single.
The Cougars would add two more in the sixth on catcher Jordyn Martinez’s solo shot to left and Allie Puente’s infield single.
Clovis is ranked No. 6 by Cal-Hi Sports and Buchanan came in at No. 15.
After Clovis jumped out to a 5-0 lead after five innings, Buchanan battled back. The Bears scored two runs in the sixth and potentially more if not for a running catch in center by Ashley Kincaid with the bases loaded and one out. Lung would allow a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh but got a pop-up to Mueller at shortstop to end the game.
“To rack up that many strikeouts is just amazing, but I appreciated more her fight when Buchanan, to their credit, fought back to load the bases in the sixth,” Noel said.
On the season, Lung is 13-0 with three saves, a 1.00 ERA and 150 Strikeouts in 84 Innings pitched. She has allowed only 38 hits and 11 walks.
Buchanan (17-3) and Clovis (19-2) met in the championship game of the Easter Softball Classic on March 27 but Noel and Bears coach Dean Gregory elected to not pitch Fresno State bound Lung and future Stanford Cardinal Millar, knowing they would face each other at least two more times. The Cougars would win 8-6, thanks to a seven-run fourth inning, all with two outs.
Noel, who has led Clovis to seven overall D-I Central Section championships including two of the last three, understands what it takes to win big ball games.
“The win was big, but there’s a long way to go,” Noel said. “The game for me was more about the way we showed up and played with such fight and energy. That needs to happen the rest of the way.”
Clovis and Buchanan will play their second-round game at Clovis on April 27.