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CIF Central Section Division 2 semifinals preview: CSU Fullerton commit Lillianna Garcia gives No. 1 Hanford an edge

Garcia's two-way impact makes top-seeded Hanford a slight favorite, but the competition is fierce.


No. 1 Hanford (21-6) enters the semifinals riding an 11-game winning streak. The Bullpups went 10-0 in the West Yosemite League to claim the top seed in Division 2, and although their first two playoff matches against Sanger and Selma were uncomfortably close, they look the part of a No. 1 seed.


CSU Fullerton commit Lillianna Garcia has had an extraordinary season in the circle while also contributing significantly at the plate. Through the regular season, she went 19-5 with a 0.34 ERA pitching nearly every inning of the season, and striking out 237 batters in 146 innings. She did that while hitting .329 with a team-high six home runs. Her OPS of 1.083 was second only to Ayden Stone, who also hit six home runs while batting .390. And Nyzeth Gonzalez hit .417, leading the team in hits, runs, and doubles.

As for No. 5 Madera (20-10), the Coyotes are a lower seed but look like a very even match on paper. They too won a pair of fairly low-scoring, well-contested battles to make the semifinals, and like Hanford, they also hit their stride around midseason after challenging themselves with a hard schedule early on. Additionally, the Coyotes went 10-0 in league play and come in with a double-digit winning streak just like the Bullpups. The team Madera beat in the quarterfinals, St. Joseph (Santa Maria), defeated them 6-0 early in the season, and Madera's revenge win is a good indicator of its improvement throughout 2022.

The Coyotes too have a stud on the mound in Alexis "Noodles" Galvan. She has a dirty array of off-speed pitches and is absolutely dominant when she's on – which she usually is. Their offense is led by one of the best hitters in the bracket, Erika Perez. There's not a lot separating these two teams on paper.

On the other side of the bracket are a couple lower seeds who mean business. No. 7 Bullard (21-9) is a full-fledged underdog in these playoffs for being No. 2 in their league behind the fifth seed, as Madera defeated Bullard 3-2 and 5-3 in league play. But the Knights have plenty of wins on the season that make it clear that they can contend, including a 2-1 victory over top-seeded Hanford and a 7-1 victory over none other than No. 11 Kingsburg (17-12).

The Vikings too went 8-2 in conference play where Selma, another D2 team, edged them out for a Central Sequoia League title. Their 7-0 win over formidable Clovis East to open the playoffs was one of the top first round statement wins in the section, and then they outlasted Arroyo Grande 4-2. While Kingsburg did fall 7-1 to Bullard on April 11, that was less than a month removed from previously defeating Bullard 8-4. That means this semifinal is a rubber match, and it goes without saying that it appears to be evenly-matched.