Photo by Nick Baker – The Buchanan Bears are the 2016 D-1 Central Section champions after defeating TRAC rival Clovis 2-0 at Margie Wright Diamond on May 28. It was the Bears fifth Valley title in school history.
By Paul Meadors, Sports Editor
In the game she and her Buchanan teammates had been waiting four years to play in, Faith Rousey took a swing and sliced the ball to left field. And as it rattled around in the left field corner she had a single thought as she sped towards third base: “I had to score that run.”
Rousey, a left-handed hitter and part of a core group of seniors, mad-dashed home in bottom of the second inning of the D-1 Central Section championship after slicing that ball to left, scoring the first run for the Bears and igniting the crowd at Margie Wright Diamond.
And her inside-the-park home run was all the scoring the Bears would need in defeating Clovis High School, 2-0 in front of 1,500 people for their school’s fifth Valley title.
“When I stepped into the batter box I was just looking to start a rally to pump the team,” said Rousey, who’s attending Fresno State next year. “Once I saw Coach Gregory waving me home, I knew to really set the tone of the game and get the Bears rallied up.”
The Bears (26-5) would tack on another in the third when Sienna Swain singled home Hunter Sansom who had walked and stole second. Game, set, match. All that was left was the celebration when the final out was caught by Swain at shortstop.
“To achieve our ultimate goal as a team and as a large group of seniors, it means the world to each and every one of us,” added Rousey.
And it helps to have a pitcher like sophomore Molly Millar in the circle.
Millar, who had pitched in the 1-0 win and 1-0 loss to Clovis during league play, pitched a shutout, a three-hit, seven strikeout game. She wasn’t without trouble though, as she got out of two jams in the first two innings which prompted Coach Dean Gregory to tell her tongue and cheekish: “It would be okay with me if you let them earn their way on base.”
At that point Millar settled in and showed amazing poise, especially since the Bears were on the brink of a Valley title. If short, she was unfazed. Well, except for the celebration.
“When the final out was caught, it was a little bit of a blur,” said Millar. “Honestly, the fact that I could celebrate with my team about something that we had worked towards accomplishing all season was an amazing feeling.”
And what about this Buchanan team, who like their spring counterparts – the boy’s baseball team and their No. 1 national and Valley championship – that caught fire the last half of the season in going.
“They are one of the most talented groups of athletes I have coached and more than that they had a passion to win it all,” Gregory said. “Talent alone doesn’t usually win but when you add talent with heart that’s tough to beat.”
And it was no easy task considering the Bears were going up against the defending champs in Clovis (24-6) and a talented sophomore pitcher in Danielle Lung.
“It was a great game and I was proud of my kids,” said Clovis coach Mike Noel, who only returned three starters. “The game featured two great pitchers and the team who came up with clutch hits won – the way a game with great pitching should be decided.”
Buchanan ended the season as the No. 15 team in Cal-Hi Sports rankings and one that Gregory will remember for a long time.
“They are an exceptional group of young ladies,” he said. “They have great character and really represented our program and school well. I have never been happier as a coach then to see these young ladies finish on top.”