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High school softball: Big plays give Madera, Fowler, Orange Cove section titles

Madera High pitcher Natasha Griffin had it in the back of her mind what winning a Central Section softball title for coach Judy Shaubach would mean.

So much, she was thinking about that Thursday night and on the bus ride to Margie Wright Diamond on Friday.

Never mind that nerves were kicking in on the way to Fresno State.

Her teammate, freshman Malea Ricks, had her back.

Ricks scored twice, including on an error as she cleared the bases in the fourth inning, and added an RBI in the sixth inning of the Coyotes’ 4-2 victory over Frontier in the Division II championship game.

“All I thought was I need to go out and play and do it for my teammates,” Ricks said “I’m doing it for the people that weren’t able to make it here, and just for the girls.”

Destinee Avila drove in Ricks in the second inning for a 1-0 lead.

It was Madera’s first section title since 2016, according to historian Bob Barnett, and the fourth in school history, all under Shaubach.

The Coyotes got to the championship after beating St. Joseph in Santa Maria earlier in the week.

“Just grit,” Shaubach said. “After coming home from that great win against St. Joseph, it was hard to get, you know, focus. We really went over there and played really good ball, but tonight it was just focus and get back to basics, get the ball on the ground, get those fast kids on the bases. Nattie (Natasha Griffin) struggled, but she got it done when the pitches needed to be pitched.”

Last season, Shaubach notched her 700th career win. Friday’s victory brought her career record to 726-363-9, second-most wins in section history behind Mike Noel of Clovis with 737, Barnett said.

Griffin said she and her teammates wanted to win a championship for their coach, knowing it’s been awhile.

“You know what, we talked to Shaubach about it (Thursday) while I was pitching my bullpen and I could just see the excitement on her face and I really wanted to come through for her,” Griffin said.

“I’m glad we did it for her.”

Division III

Fowler coach Marissa Marquez said her team’s defense has been the key all season leading up to the Central Section championship against Reedley..

As it turns out, that carried over to the championship — in the final inning , no less.

Redcats shortstop Alex Alvarado made a diving catch for the first out in the seventh inning and center fielder Alexandria Perkins made an overhead catch for the final out with a runner in scoring position in a 2-1 victory.

The win gives Fowler its ninth section title in school history, the first since the 2012 season.

Fowler celebrates a Central Section Division III title after defeating Reedley 2-1 at Margie Wright Diamond in Fresno, California on Saturday, May 27, 2023.
Fowler celebrates a Central Section Division III title after defeating Reedley 2-1 at Margie Wright Diamond in Fresno, California on Saturday, May 27, 2023.

Jaelyn Quintana went the distance, scattering nine hits, giving up one run (no earned runs), no walks and struck out two.

“It’s our strong suit,” Marquez said of her pitching. “That is where we are the most confident in. That’s what we rely on: our pitching, our fielding. We’re lights out on that.”

Marquez said Alvarado is a stud for her diving play and “that’s what she’s good for. That’s why we have her there. We know she’ll step up when she needs to and she proved it right there.”

On Perkins’ play, she said they’ve been practicing going back to the fences plenty of times and it paid off for the Redcats.

“No one better to make that play,” she said.

Division IV

It’s back-to-back championships for Orange Cove.

The Titans scored four runs in in the third inning for a 4-0 victory over Mission Prep.

Anahi Castillo drove in two runs in the third. Mia Castillo and Vanessa Hamilton also had an RBI in the inning.

Mia Castillo was impressive in the circle when she pitched a two-hitter and struck out seven.

Orange Cove celebrates a Central Section Division IV title after a 4-0 victory over Mission Prep at Margie Wright Diamond in Fresno, California on Saturday, May 27, 2023.
Orange Cove celebrates a Central Section Division IV title after a 4-0 victory over Mission Prep at Margie Wright Diamond in Fresno, California on Saturday, May 27, 2023.

It was a crowning moment for Titans coach Victor Contreras who was thinking about his three seniors, Alexia Lozano, Anahi Castillo and Hamilton.

“In order to win tight games like this, you have to have senior leadership,” he said. “We were close in the past, but my seniors were not there. Go to practice and work hard. My three seniors this year, they came everyday and didn’t miss a practice. They showed examples to these other girls what it takes to win.”

Division V

Dos Palos committed four errors in a 6-1 loss to Boron.

The Bobcats was led by pitcher Hailey Davis who pitched a two-hitter, striking out 12.

Boron scored three runs in the third inning, but two of those runs were scored on fielding errors.

Earlier in the inning, Davis drove in a run on a double that tied the game at 1-1.

Dos Palos briefly led 1-0 on an alert play by Denise Fonseca, when she scored from third base off a popup in the infield.

Division VI

South rolled past Orcutt Academy 10-0 for the school’s first section title.