Sometimes with an ace like Sydney Hornbuckle, all you need is one run.
In the Central Section Division I softball quarterfinals at home on Thursday, Stockdale got just that in a 1-0 win over No. 6 Hanford West as the Mustangs advance to the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season.
And in a year where the top two seeds lost in the quarterfinals, No. 3 Stockdale (25-5) gets a home game in the semifinals for the first time since being the No. 1 seed in a 4-2 loss to Clovis in 2017.
The Mustangs were gifted a semifinal home game when No. 7 Atascadero beat No. 2 Clovis North 6-3.
“We are ecstatic,” Stockdale coach Amanda Hockett said. “We hoped for a higher seed and to now get to host this game here is great. We haven’t hosted a semifinal game in two years. Being on our home field with more of our fans here without having to travel is going to give us everything we need to do what we have to do.”
Stockdale got another boost of confidence with No. 1 Clovis-Buchanan losing to No. 9 Paso Robles 3-2 on Thursday.
Stockdale is the highest remaining seed in the D-I playoffs, which matters a lot this season.
There is a possible scheduling conflict with the host site of the softball finals which are scheduled for Fresno State on May 17-18.
The Bulldogs have announced their intent to host a postseason softball game in the National Invitational Softball Tournament, which would be in direct conflict with the section finals.
In that case, Central Section commissioner Jim Crichlow said the finals will be at the home site of the highest seed at 4:30 p.m. on May 17. If no conflict, the D-I finals are set for that Friday night at 8 p.m. at Margie Wright Diamond.
But that all nearly came to naught for Stockdale in the quarterfinals.
Hanford West (19-10) sophomore Maddie Shimmin retired the first nine Stockdale batters and kept the Mustangs hitless until freshman Lexi Rolin singled to left with one out in the bottom of the fifth.
Hornbuckle struck out the first two Huskies batters and had five of her nine strikeouts in the first two innings. The lone base runners for Hanford West came on a single in the first and a walk in the second. Hornbuckle retired the final 16 batters she faced to keep the Huskies off the board.
“Syd was firing on all cylinders today,” Hockett said. “She was hitting every pitch that I called and was taking command of the game with her energy. When she has that type of energy, our team really plays well behind her.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Katelyn Hornbuckle walked to start the inning and advanced to third on a fielding error. Then Jayden Beam laid down a sacrifice bunt that Hornbuckle was able to zoom past on the way to scoring the only run of the game.
“Sometimes it’s not about getting the hits,” Stockdale senior Izzy Nieblas said. “Sometimes it’s about putting the ball in play and making something happen. Jayden did exactly that. It’s crazy and it happens. But it’s a win.”
Stockdale also got a dazzling play in left field by Caitlyn Enriquez, who made a diving catch for the second out in the seventh that had the Stockdale dugout on their feet cheering with deafening sound.
“That’s a play we’ve been working on with her all season,” Hockett said.
And with her 100th win as a four-year starter at first base for Stockdale, Nieblas — who is on scholarship at the University of Maine next season — said this moment was high on her list of achievements for the Mustangs to host as the 3-seed in the semifinals.
“It means a lot to me,” Nielbas said. “Our team chemistry this year is something special and I really think we can get to the Valley championship this year.”