Game day on the Le Grand High campus can be awkward for former Bulldogs’ softball coach Tony Williams.
Though dedicated to the school and student body, there’s still that lingering feeling that Williams, now the Mariposa softball coach, is behind enemy lines.
Decades of intense rivalry between the two Southern League powers don’t allow for much playful banter when the schools get together.
Things promise to be a little more uncomfortable for at least a week after Wednesday’s wild victory by the Grizzlies.
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Mariposa sent 12 batters to the plate in the ninth inning, scoring eight times to pull out a 15-7 win and hand Le Grand its first Southern League loss on its home field.
“This was two very good teams just getting after each other,” Williams said. “We’ve really struggled to put together a complete game, so this was the perfect time for that.
“This is how we’ve expected to play all season, so hopefully it’s the start of some good things to finish out league.”
The two teams looked every bit the representatives of the last two Sac-Joaquin Section Division 6 title games. If Wednesday was a preview of a third consecutive championship clash, it could be one for the ages.
Finding a way to top the extra-inning thriller could prove tough, however.
After six innings of clean, low-scoring softball, the runs started coming fast and furious in the seventh.
Both teams exchanged two runs in the seventh and eighth to make it a 7-7 game going into the ninth inning.
The Grizzlies (13-8, 5-4 SL) quickly loaded the bases with no
Victoria Thorpe then flared a single just over the infield to put Mariposa up 8-7.
Claire Bullis broke the game open two batters later, drilling a 3-1 pitch into the gap for a bases-clearing triple.
The wheels came off for Le
Grand after that as the Grizzlies scored four more runs to put the game away.
“Every time they came back, we just kept thinking about how much we wanted it,” Bullis said. “I knew she didn’t want to walk me, so I was probably going to get something to hit. My only thought was to rip it hard somewhere.
“That’s what I did.”
Mariposa jumped out in front immediately, opening the game with four consecutive singles to push across a pair of runs.
Shea Williams (3 for 4, 2B, 4
RBIs) and Kaelee Lynch (5 for 6, 2 RBIs) each picked up run-scoring singles to make it 2-0.
A Carissa Leonard RBI ground out made it 3-1 Mariposa in the third inning, but Le Grand (12-9, 8-1 SL) started chipping away.
Marissa Furtado (3 for 5, 3B, 2 RBIs) trimmed the lead to 3-2 with a run-scoring single in the fourth.
She started the rally to tie the game up in the sixth, tripling to lead off the inning.
Rebecca Nichols drove Furtado in with a single to make it 3-3.
While Bulldogs head coach Gia Pridell was pleased with her team’s efforts in coming back multiple times in the game, it’s the missed opportunities that may haunt her.
LG stranded six runners on base in the fifth through seventh innings, including a bases loaded, no-out opportunity that produced no runs in the fifth.
“We got timely hits later on in extra innings when we needed them, but if we’d produced some more early, it never gets to extra innings,” Pridell said. “For me defense wins championships and we weren’t able to put out the kind of defense that wins close games like this.
“Every out just seemed difficult to get, as opposed to it being very smooth when things are going well.”
The Bulldog defense was particularly shaky down the stretch.
Williams drove in a run with a ground ball to second in the seventh inning and ended up reaching when the ball was misplayed. That allowed her to come around and score on a Leonard single.
LG fought back, getting consecutive, two-out, run-scoring singles from Furtado and Shelbee Baraza to extend the game.
Mariposa went right back on top in the eighth when a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt gave it runners on second and third with no outs.
Nichols almost fought her way out of the jam, but Williams delivered a two-out, two-run double to put the Grizzlies up 7-5.
Le Grand wouldn’t go away.
Katelyn Grinder singled to lead off the bottom half of the inning and came around to score on a Cassandra Casanova double.
Casanova moved up to third on the play thanks to a throwing error. That allowed her to come home and tie the game up on a Kinsey Haas sacrifice fly.
Mariposa made sure there would be no comeback in the ninth.