By Paul Meadors
Center fielder Mackenzie Emmitt flashed an enormous smile. Shortstop Cayla Broussard rushed to embrace her teammates. The Clovis bench jumped over the dugout railing and out onto the field, forming a giant celebration circle. Catcher Cameryn Reichle simply fell to her knees.
And as the final out was caught by right fielder Taylor Tiger all the disappointment from Clovis High’s recent failures evaporated with one squeeze of the glove.
In a game that will live in Clovis sports lore, Clovis High defeated the Central Grizzlies 2-0 in an epic game that featured a no-hitter fired by Cougar freshman Danielle Lung, helping the Cougars capture the Central Section Division 1 softball championship.
Before the season started 10 seniors got together and made a pact to lay it all on the line with one focused mission: a Valley championship.
On May 21 they can claim it was mission accomplished.
“When the ball was in the air I thought ‘this is it’,” said senior captain Broussard. “It was both relief and excitement and all the hard work we put it had paid off.”
It was the program’s eighth title since 1991, but first since 2007 with the past three years ending in heartbreak for the Cougars, losing each game in the semi-finals.
“There are 10 of us seniors who have been playing together for 10 years,” said Broussard, the school’s career leader in stolen bases and runs scored. “This was our last chance to do something amazing and we thought why not? Why don’t we just go for it.”
And go for it they did, winning TRAC with an 8-2 record and an overall record of 33-6. By the end of the season they had become a well-oiled machine with no glaring weaknesses.
Central (35-7) seemed to have their number this season winning two of three games against the Cougars, including the championship game in the Clovis Easter Classic. But this game belonged to the team in Blue and Gold.
Lung started the game perfect through four innings and was in control from pitch number one. She ended up only walking one and striking out 10.
Head Coach Mike Noel had a feeling she had something special brewing early.
“She hit her spots and they put it in play and we made plays,” said Noel. “I thought if she would pitch like last time against them we’d be in good shape. She went beyond our expectations.”
Not bad for someone who was pitching against 8th grade competition last year.
“She’s incredible,” said Broussard. “She’s so humble I don’t think she’s realized what she’s done.”
Lung (21-1) only needed one run and Alyssa Caballero was happy to provide the first fireworks. In the bottom of the fourth she launched a lead-off home run to dead center field off Grizzlies pitcher Gianna Mancha. A bomb Coach Noel called “a no-doubter.”
The Cougars would tack on another run in the fifth when Reichle took off for second with Broussard bird-dogging from third. Grizzly’s catcher Alyssa Avila tried to throw out Reichle and threw wildly, allowing Broussard to score from third. Like they say – there’s no substitute for speed.
Lung would take care of the rest.
About an hour after the game Coach Noel is still cleaning up the now empty field, putting away equipment in the Cougars shed, helped by alumni assistant coach Charity Broussard and his young daughter Avery.
And over on two adjacent softball fields future Cougars wearing florescent pink and green shirts were hitting and throwing – perhaps among them is Coach Noel’s future shortstop or next pitching phenom.
Noel stops to reflect on the game and just completed season and says how proud he is of those girls he just coached, especially this senior class.
“So many of them grew up with me,” said the 20th year coach. “They were all thrown into roles and five or six started for me as freshman. And for them to win really makes this a special one for me. They are a great group.”