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CIF Central Section Division 1 softball semifinals preview: Can underdog Stockdale again disrupt the TRAC-meet?

After upsetting No. 1 Clovis North, No. 8 Stockdale has officially shaken up the Division 1 landscape.


After No. 8 Stockdale's upset of No. 1 Clovis North, both the two top seeds remaining (No. 2 Buchanan and No. 3 Clovis) and the bottom two seeds (No. 4 Central and No. 8 Stockdale) will face each other in the semifinals. Whichever team wins the battle of the higher seeds will be the fairly heavy favorite to win it all, but all four teams remaining have a chance of going all the way.


When the Mustangs knocked off Clovis North, the Broncos were missing one of the best players in the country in pitcher/hitter Ryan Maddox, but that win still makes them a clear championship threat. Aamya Harrison and Kayelin Lebo led the charge offensively with two hits and at least one RBI each, and ace Maya Hernandez tossed a complete game with only two runs allowed. One of the premier pitchers in the Central Section, Hernandez is 12-7 with a 1.51 ERA in 134.2 innings. Stockdale has a deep lineup where just about every single hitter is a nightly threat, and while it's not overflowing with power, there are no easy outs. Hannah Ishii and Jillian Sanchez are other key names to know on offense.

Meanwhile, Central (18-9) is coming off of one of the best first round performances, a 6-0 win against formidable Liberty (Bakersfield). And despite getting fourth place in the TRAC with a 4-6 conference record, the Grizzlies could plausibly go all the way. Even though they never beat Clovis North, Clovis, or Buchanan, six of the seven games against those three were close, with only a tournament loss against Clovis North before league play getting away from them (7-0). And unlike Buchanan, Central was able to take care of Clovis East in both meetings.

The Grizzlies have the luxury of having two very good pitchers, both of whom are named Mia. Mia Nishikawa tossed a complete game shutout against Liberty (Bakersfield), and is the expected starter based on recent games, but Mia Traylor – who is also one of the team's top contact hitters – has been equally good this season. Central's offensive focal point is slugger Jayden Ramos, who leads the team with five home runs, seven doubles, 31 RBIs, and a 1.185 OPS. Cici Frazel and Kendra Hodges are the Grizzlies' other top hitters.

While there's a case to be made that Central is the mild favorite, the two teams have already played the season and it was Stockdale that won, 3-2 just a couple weeks into the season. This is a 50-50 game if you ask us.

Meanwhile, despite dropping both its regular season meetings with Buchanan, Clovis (23-6) is the top-ranked Central Section team in our statewide power rankings right now. Even then, it's hard not to call the Cougars the underdog by a hair in this game, based primarily on head-to-head results and Buchanan having home field advantage. But they're a safe bet to stick around late into any game with Lauryn Carranco in the circle. She is one of the best pitchers in the section, if not the state, and Brooke Brazill is the top threat in a deep, balanced offense.

Buchanan (21-7), Clovis' evenly-matched foe, is led by a star pitcher as well in Christal Lopez, who is also a big hitter. San Diego State commit Ally Dueker is a defensive leader in centerfield and key member of the lineup, and catcher Auti Buck is another central contributor to both a potent offense and stingy defense. Layla Estrada is also one to keep an eye on at bat.

Regardless of who wins both semifinals, either Clovis or Buchanan will be the clear favorite going into the finals. But all four teams in the field have at minimum a puncher's chance to claim the section throne.