Seventh inning is the difference as the Colts avenge their only loss by upsetting unbeaten Amador Valley to win CIF North Coast Section Division I title. State No. 1 ranking to be decided Saturday.
Although Amador Valley of Pleasanton sophomore standout Johanna Grauer was mowing down hitters and her teammates were getting consistent contact in their at-bats, Friday’s CIF North Coast Section Division I softball final between the Dons and James Logan of Union City had that familiar feeling of so many softball games when so much is on the line.
The underdog team, which in this case was Logan, hangs around and then one or two plays happen that decides the outcome.
Unfortunately for Amador, which came into the game at 26-0 and was No. 2 in both the POWERADE FAB 50 national and Cal-Hi Sports state rankings, those plays went in the Colts favor and resulted in a 1-0 defeat.
Entering the seventh inning, the two teams were still locked in a 0-0 tie as the sun was setting and the wind was picking up at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.
Two promising scoring chances for the Dons had been snuffed out earlier in the game on line-drive double plays and there was just one batter who had struck out.
Then disaster struck for Amador in the top of the seventh when junior Raeanne Garza, who also was Grauer’s opposing pitcher, came up with two outs and teammate Jazmine Reed at first base. Reed had gotten just the second hit of the game for the Colts to lead off the inning, but hadn’t gone anywhere when the next two batters became Grauer’s 15th and 16th strikeout victims. With a two-strike count, Garza was able to hit fly ball that got up into the wind and was misplayed by the outfield. Running on two outs, Reed scored easily on what was ruled a double for Garza.
The Dons showed their true colors by battling back in the bottom of the seventh. The first two batters, sophomore Ashley Lotoszynski and Grauer, both collected singles. Garza then got pop-ups to retire the next two hitters, which set the stage for the play of the year in Northern California this season.
Zoe Price dug in as the next batter for Amador. She came through by lacing a line-drive single into centerfield. Perhaps she hit it too solidly, though, as it reached Logan centerfielder Marissa Perez on a clean bounce. As Lotoszynski was rounding third base, Perez charged the ball perfectly, then came up with a strong, accurate throw. Logan catcher Caley Bonansea was blocking the plate the way she’d been taught, caught the throw with no bobble and applied the tag to Lotoszynski’s shoulder. Everyone at the field knew it was in time. The umpire made the correct call and Logan had won the NCS crown.
“We had to play flawless in the field and we knew that just one mistake might be too much,” said Logan coach Teri Johnson, who was the Cal-Hi Sports State Coach of the Year in 2010 and earned the fourth NCS title of her career. “The way we bonded this year was just great. This couldn’t have happened to a better group of girls.”
“They’re a great team who always gives us a battle,” said Amador Valley coach Julie Marshall. “We hit the ball hard and crisply, but right at people. We came back strong (in the bottom of the seventh). They have to do a lot of things right on that last play and unfortunately for us that’s what they did.”
Marshall didn’t feel her team played negatively at all due to being an undefeated defending champion.
“I felt the girls were in a really good place all day,” she said.
The Colts will be the defending champion next season and will now wait to see how all of the final state rankings turn out for them.
Now that they have avenged their only loss of the season, there is a possibility of the team ending No. 1 in the state and top five in the nation. For any State Team of the Year consideration, of course, Logan needs the same thing to happen that Amador Valley was hoping for and that’s for current No. 1 Norco to lose in Saturday night’s CIF Southern Section Division I championship to league rival Santiago of Corona.
If Norco loses, another team other than Logan that might merit No. 1 consideration is Chino Hills, which is 31-3 heading into the CIFSS Division II championship (also being played Saturday).
In last week’s overall state top 20, Chino Hills was No. 6 and Logan was No. 7. All of the other teams in front of those two have lost this week, other than Norco, which still has its last game left, and Archbishop Mitty of San Jose. Corona Santiago, with nine losses overall, can’t be No. 1 in the state and neither can No. 5 Mitty, which has a loss to Amador Valley.
Corrections or comments? Email Mark.Tennis@espn.com.