Sydney Hornbuckle and the Stockdale softball team has continually stated all season that this season was “different.”
For the sake of all parties involved, something needed to change.
The previous three seasons, including the last two with Hornbuckle as the starting pitcher for the Mustangs, Stockdale’s season ended on the road in a loss in the Central Section Division I semifinals.
Those losses were heartbreaking, and Hornbuckle, now a junior, felt the need to make things right.
“I felt bad for my past seniors that I couldn’t do it for them because my freshman year when we lost, I cried for my seniors,” Hornbuckle said. “I was apologizing to them knowing we didn’t win and this was the year we finally did it.”
Hornbuckle ended this season with a 26-inning scoreless streak, including a shutout over Fresno-Bullard in a 1-0 win in the D-I finals as Stockdale captured the program’s first section title since 2011.
For her efforts, Hornbuckle is the BVarsity All-Area Softball Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Hornbuckle, who was 19-3 overall with a minuscule 0.43 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 145 innings, credits the team chemistry as the biggest contrast comparing this season to those in the past.
“There were some times we were up each other’s throats, but it was very few,” Hornbuckle said. “The coaches even said the chemistry this year was great. There was no one against another. We were all for the team and not for ourselves.”
While Hornbuckle became of the most dominating pitchers in the region, she helped out her own cause at the plate with a .529 batting average (45 for 85) with four home runs and 28 RBIs despite being the focus of attention for opposing pitchers all season.
“She is a phenomenal player,” Stockdale coach Amanda Hockett said. “We had to throw a few things around in the lineup just to be able to make sure that she doesn’t get walked all year. She’s so threatening at the plate. When she is on fire, our team feels unbeatable. If Sydney is in a groove, we’ve got it. She came up big for us so many times.”
And when the bats were quiet, it was Hornbuckle’s performance in the postseason that was key for Stockdale. The Colorado State-commit pitched three consecutive complete game shutouts in 1-0 victories of Hanford West, Atascadero and Bullard to secure the title. The scoreless streak came after giving up one run in the second inning against Arroyo Grande in the opening round of the playoffs.
“It’s nice knowing that you have a player that isn’t in it for herself,” Hockett said. “She plays for the rest of the team. She really is hard on herself in losses. She’s a pleaser and wants to help everyone get as far they can go.”
When asked about the postseason success, Hornbuckle didn’t put the attention on herself, instead crediting her teammates for coming up with clutch late-game hits in the final three games of the season.
“Our bottom of the lineup really came through,” Hornbuckle said. “Usually it’s the top of the order that comes through, but they were going hard against our top half and getting us out. But the bottom-half came through and got those hits that got through. That was the miracle of the bottom-half coming through.”