El Diamante climbs to No. 12 in NFCA softball poll

El Diamante High’s softball team climbed one spot to No. 12 in this week’s USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Top 25.

The Miners (27-1-1) are also ranked No. 6 nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, No. 9 in the MaxPreps computer poll and No. 12 in the state by CalHiSports.

El Diamante — which saw coach Travis Roebuck step down for personal reasons April 26 and replaced by former coach Brad Pendergast, closes the regular season Friday by hosting Golden West. Central Section playoff pairings, where the Miners are expected to be top-seeded in Division I, will be announced Saturday.

El Diamante softball earns national attention

El Diamante High senior pitcher Sierra Hyland is the MaxPreps/NFCA prep softball player of the week for the West Region.

El Diamante High’s dominating run through last week’s Clovis Easter Classic softball tournament has garnered national accolades for the program.

The Miners (17-7-1) debuted at No. 17 on Tuesday in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings after a 7-0 run through the 23-team tournament that was capped by a 10-0, mercy-rule victory over Bullard for the title. El Diamante outscored tournament opponents Centennial, Clovis West, Memorial, Taft, Mt. Whitney, Clovis and Bullard by a combined score of 70-8.

On Monday, Miners pitcher Sierra Hyland was named one of four regional MaxPreps/NFCA National High School Players of the Week.

The senior bound for Cal Poly went 4-0 with a 0.56 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 25 tournament innings. Hyland, player of the week for the West Region, also went 8-for-16 with two doubles, two triples, seven RBIs and seven runs.

For the season, Hyland is 13-0 with 104 strikeouts in 88 2/3 innings while batting .529 with six doubles, four triples, a home run and 17 RBIs.

Power-hitting duo leads Selma into Kerman Easter Softball Classic

Behind the slugging duo of Stephanie Cantu (.421, 2 HRs) and Emery Green (.417, 2 HRs), Selma High rides into the Kerman Easter Softball Classic with with a tournament-best 8-2 record.

The 14-team tournament — which starts Saturday and continues Monday and Tuesday — also includes host and defending champion Kerman, as well as Fresno, Coalinga, Sanger, Edison (tournament runner-up last year), Madera South, McLane, Riverdale, Sierra, Corcoran, Sunnyside, Tranquillity and Firebaugh.

The teams are grouped into pools, with Sanger, Coalinga, Sunnyside, Selma, Madera South, Edison and McLane in one, and Kerman, Sierra, Corcoran, Tranquillity, Firebaugh, Riverdale and Fresno in the other.

Saturday’s schedule:
10 a.m.: Coalinga vs. Sanger, Field 1; Edison vs. Madera South, F2; McLane vs. Selma, F3; Riverdale vs. Sierra, F4
12 p.m.: Corcoran vs. Fresno, F1; Sunnyside vs. Edison, F2; Madera South vs. Selma, F3; Riverdale vs. Tranquillity, F4
2 p.m.: Kerman vs. Sierra, F1; Fresno vs. Firebaugh, F2; McLane vs. Sanger, F3; Coalinga vs. Sunnyside, F4
4 p.m.: Kerman vs. Corcoran, F1; Firebaugh vs. Tranquillity, F2

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Central softball ace fires pefecto

Central’s Rachel Rodriguez pitched a perfect game in the Grizzlies’ 2-0 win over Bullard.

Central High’s Rachel Rodriguez pitched her first career seven-inning perfect game, stifling one of the better softball teams in the Central Section in the process.

The junior right-hander who has given an oral commitment to Boise State didn’t allow a ball out of the infield while striking out a career-high-tying 10 to lead The Bee’s No. 2-ranked Grizzlies over No. 5 Bullard on Thursday in a nonleague game.

With command of all her pitches, including an effective change-up, Rodriguez reached a three-ball count on only four hitters while firing Central’s first perfect game since Lindsey Clarkson’s against Clovis West in last season’s section Division I championship.

“She was just dominant from the beginning,” Grizzlies coach Scott Gorton said. “She threw to every location she wanted to.”

Central scored the only run Rodriguez would need in the top of the first, with pinch-runner Maryssa Kamimoto coming home from third on a double-steal with Jilee Schanda. Selena Ruiz singled in an insurance run in the fourth.

Bullard’s Claudia Puente was also sharp, pitching a two-hitter with six strikeouts.

Central, El Diamante top field for Clovis Easter Softball Classic

Rachel Rodriguez leads defending champion Central into the Clovis Easter Softball Classic

The past two Central Section Division I softball champions — Central and El Diamante highs — headline the the Clovis Easter Classic.

All of The Bee’s Central Section Top 10 are in the 23-team field for a tournament that starts Saturday at the Buchanan Softball Complex, including defending section champions in Hanford West (D-III) and Liberty-Madera Ranchos (D-V).

Pool A: Cesar Chavez, No. 7 Clovis, No. 9 Frontier, Hanford, Madera, Liberty-Madera Ranchos.
Pool B: No. 4 Buchanan, Clovis East, Dinuba, Hanford West, No. 6 Golden West, Reedley.
Pool C: No. 10 Centennial, No. 3 Clovis West, No. 1 El Diamante, Taft, Mt. Whitney, Memorial
Pool D: No. 5 Bullard, No. 2 Central, No. 7 Clovis North, Kingsburg, Lemoore.

Pool play begins Saturday and continues Monday with games on Fields’ 1-4 at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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Fowler softball tournament features pair of defending section champions

A pair of defending Central Section softball champions are among the 10-team field for the Fowler Easter Softball Classic, which starts Saturday and continues Monday and Tuesday.

Fowler, the Division IV champion last season, is one of five teams in the Andrea Duran Pool, joined by Dos Palos, Immanuel, Lindsay and Washington.

Sierra Pacific, the reigning D-VI champion, is in the Ray Garcia Pool that also features Caruthers, Chowchilla, Mendota and Woodlake.

Opening-day games include Chowchilla vs. Caruthers and Mendota vs. Woodlake at 9 a.m.; Sierra Pacific vs. Caruthers and Lindsay vs. Dos Palos at 10:45 a.m.; Fowler vs. Immanuel and Woodlake vs. Chowchilla at 12:30 p.m.; Sierra Pacific vs. Mendota and Washington vs. Lindsay at 2:15 p.m.; Dos Palos vs. Immanuel at 4 p.m. and Fowler vs. Washington at 5:45 p.m.

After a day off on Sunday, the tournament resumes with Woodlake vs. Sierra Pacific and Caruthers vs. Mendota at 9 a.m.; Fowler vs. Dos Palos and Immanuel vs. Washington at 10:45 a.m.; Caruthers vs. Woodlake and Sierra Pacific vs. Chowchilla at 12:30 p.m.; Washington vs. Dos Palos and Lindsay vs. Immanuel at 2:15 p.m.; Chowchilla vs. Mendota at 4 p.m. and Fowler vs. Lindsay at 5:45 p.m.

The top two teams in each pool advance to semifinals on Tuesday, with one starting at 10 a.m. and the other at 11:45 a.m. The third-place game is set for 3:30 p.m. and the championship at 5:30 p.m. at Marshall Field.

Stucker jumps to top of Bullard career softball HR list

Junior Claire Stucker is Bullard’s career softball home run leader with 12.

At a school that counts two past Cal-Hi Sports state players of the year and a current NCAA All-American among its alumni, junior Claire Stucker already stands alone as the greatest power hitter in Bullard High softball history.

Stucker clubbed her school-best 12th career home run Thursday in the Knights’ 10-7 victory over Clovis West that salvaged a nonleague doubleheader split.

That’s two more than Christine Thomsen — a second-team All-America pick for Utah State last season — hit for Bullard from 2005-2008.

Stucker opened the season tied for second in school history at nine with former UCLA great and current Clovis North coach Courtney Dale, the state Player of the Year in 1995. Bullard’s Marissa Marzan was the state POY in 2001.

Stucker tied Thomsen for first with a blast against Buchanan on Feb. 27 and set the record with a homer on March 4 against El Diamante. The Central Section career record of 32 was set by Corcoran’s Demi Walker (2007-2010), according to section historian Bob Barnett.

“I would definitely put her up against anyone I’ve coached or played with, and that’s close to 20 years,” said Bullard’s Jaime Maxey, who coached Thomsen and Marzan and played alongside Dale.

“As far as sheer power, she might have the most I’ve ever seen in high school. When I’m coaching third base, I get way up the line when she comes up because there’s no time to react. The ball screams off her bat.”

Stucker, who’s given an oral commitment to Mississippi State, will look to add to her total Saturday at the rain-interrupted Buchanan Preseason Tournament.

Bullard — ranked fifth in the section by The Bee — will face Hanford West at 1 p.m. (Field 2) and Kingsburg at 2:45 p.m. (Field 2) in the completion of a tournament that had six of 15 teams from the Division I bracket and six of 12 in D-II unable to return to the Buchanan Softball Complex on Friday.

No champion will be crowned.

Young Fresno City softball team off to a quick start

Kassandra Workentine

Kyla Cisneros

With a quick glance at her softball roster before the season started, Fresno City College coach Rhonda Williams took a deep breath:

“One returning starter. You don’t know how freshmen are going to respond.”

So far, pretty well, with the Rams 5-2 heading into Thursday’s game at Modesto. Kassie Sierras (Yosemite High) is the returner, but she played second base last season and is now the starting catcher.

Kyla Cisneros (El Diamante) is hitting third and has two home runs and four RBIs. Freshmen Adriana Bencomo (Bullard) is batting .450 with two homers and four RBIs, and Dana Moritz (Clovis) leads the team with a .467 batting average.

The roster also includes Kassandra Workentine, who’s recovering from a knee injury and hasn’t played softball since graduating from Washington High in 2010, and Grace Combs (Memorial), who transferred in from Southern Idaho.

“We didn’t have any expectations,” Williams said. “We thought, ‘Here we go and let’s see how they do.’ They looked good in practice and in the fall semester. Some of the players we have, have experience competing at a high level from the programs they’ve come from and travel ball.”

Bullard’s Pacheco, Central’s Rodriguez earn Grizzlies Hot Stove awards

Central’s Rachel Rodriguez. (GARY KAZANJIAN/THE FRESNO BEE)

Niko Pacheco of Bullard and Rachel Rodriguez from Central will be honored Thursday as the prep baseball and softball players of the year at the Fresno Grizzlies’ 52nd Anniversary Hot Stove Gala.

The Kerman baseball squad is the team of the year and the Lions’ Jay Preuss is coach of the year.

The Al Radka Award winner also will be announced during the Hot Stove Gala at the Fresno Convention Center in downtown Fresno. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

The gala features  guest speakers Ryan Vogelsong of the San Francisco Giants and former Fresno State star Doug Fister of the Detroit Tigers.

As juniors last spring, Pacheco and Rodriguez helped lead their respective teams to Central Section D-I titles. Preuss’ Kerman team won the D-IV baseball title.