By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
That’s what Clovis High knew it had to do down 5-1 against rival Buchanan in the championship game of the Clovis Easter Classic on April 11.
The Cougars – the state’s No. 10 ranked team – did just that, then got the big hit it needed from senior Ashley Kincaid in their 7-5 come-from-behind win against the Bears to move to 16-1 on the season.
Kincaid blasted a three-run triple in the top of the sixth inning after Clovis scored two in the fifth on a Mackenzie Byrd ground out and a Jordyn Martinez hot-shot to shortstop that was played for an error to close the lead to 5-3.
“That’s what you have to do in those situations, it’s either you lay down or you take it one base at a time,” said Clovis head coach Mike Noel. “Then Ashley came up with the big hit.”
Star pitcher Danielle Lung then pitched the final two innings in relief, striking out five.
“I think winning championships is something you need to learn and this was a good step for us,” said Noel. “We faced a team that is really good and playing hot. We are really happy with the win and we wanted to play well and we did it for the most part. I was proud of the way the girls battled back and held on.”
The Cougars rallied off junior ace Molly Millar, who came in to relieve Katie January in the top of the fifth inning. Millar beat Clovis and Lung 2-0 in last year’s Division I Central Section championship game.
But it was the sixth inning that was the undoing for Millar and the Bears (11-5). After a walk, a hit by pitch and an error loaded the bases in the sixth, Kincaid blasted her triple over the right fielder’s head.
“Coach does a great job of preparing us,” said Kincaid who has faced Millar on multiple occasions since the 7th grade. “During practices he sets up the machine on the inside and outside or on the rise. What I got was an outside pitch and just went with it.
“I was just running until I saw coach holding me up. I wasn’t looking behind me, I was just looking to go.”
Noel turned to freshman Allie Puente to start the championship game after Lung pitched the Cougars to a 3-0 win over Hanford West in the semifinal in the morning, a game in which the Fresno State commit recorded 10 strikeouts and gave up only three hits, moving to 15-1 on the season.
“I was pretty sure she was nervous but she did what she had to do,” said Noel of Puente. “She kept us in it and gave us a chance.”
Buchanan’s offense was highlighted by a two-run triple from Katie Jackson in the fourth.