It takes an ace pitcher, sometimes two, to win big in softball, which is why Centennial might have just made the leap Thursday from good team to championship contender.
The Golden Hawks beat Liberty 3-0 at home behind junior Trish McNew, who pitched her best game of the season, striking out nine and allowing just five singles and no walks.
"It was a breakout game," McNew said. "I just felt like my team was behind my back and my screwball was really working well."
It also helped that Centennial (10-3, 5-0 Southwest Yosemite League) raced to a lead with a two-run first inning when Madison Hightower's RBI double was followed by Madison Aurin's run-scoring triple.
"Both Madisons had big games," Centennial coach Samantha Walker said.
"If we can get them up with runners on, we feel like we can push them around."
Centennial's Samantha Campos got on base to spark the Golden Hawks in that first inning. She struck out on a wild pitch, but reached base when Liberty catcher Quinn Giesick had to rush her throw to first.
Two batters later, it was 2-0.
"Good teams will capitalize on it, and Centennial is a good team," Liberty coach Henry Arias said. "Those two runs were huge."
The score stayed 2-0 until the fifth inning, when Campos launched a leadoff home run to straight-away center field.
McNew did the rest, striking out two batters in the second and third and then striking out the side in the seventh inning.
Liberty (9-6, 3-2) had a chance to cut into the lead in the fifth, but Centennial center fielder Davalin Ontiveros threw out Ryanna Floyd at the plate on Jazmeen Llamas' single.
"We had a few defensive mistakes, but Trisha threw an excellent game in the circle, the best game she's had this year," Walker said. "And then it's good to see our defense back her up when she needed it."
Llamas and Floyd had two hits each for Liberty, but the Patriots had only one inning with more than one baserunner.
"You've got to give credit to (McNew), she threw a great game," Arias said. "We need to have better at-bats, but when that pitcher's on, she'll do something like that."
And here's the best part for Centennial, which has a one-game lead on Frontier a third of the way through the SWYL season: McNew, who's 5-3 with a 1.65 ERA, isn't the Golden Hawks' only ace. Aurin is 4-0 with a 0.45 ERA.
"It's great to have two dominant pitchers," Walker said. "Liberty is a great team, so for Trish to go all seven innings is a really good sign for us."
Centennial 3, Liberty 0
At CHS; W: McNew (6-3). L: Fahy (7-5). 2B: CHS (Hightower, Aurin, Rede). 3B: CHS (Aurin). HR: CHS (Campos). SWYL W-L: LHS (9-6, 3-2 SWYL), CHS 10-3, 5-0). Notes: CHS (Trish McNew CG, 5H, 9K, 0BB; Madison Hightower 2-3; Madison Aurin 2-3); LHS (Kylee Fahy 6IP, 6H, ER, 6K, 2BB; Jazmeen Llamas 2-3; Ryanna Floyd 2-3).