STOCKTON — Few schools in the Sac-Joaquin Section can hope to approach Escalon High's athletic pedigree, a proud history that features 16 section team championships.
For all its tradition, however, there is a noticeable void in the school's crowded trophy case — Escalon has yet to win a section girls' team crown.
Caitlin Brooks and the Cougars took a step toward changing history Friday when they topped Calaveras 2-1 to earn a berth in today's Division V title game at Arnaiz Stadium.
"The boys teams are pretty good and they get a lot of the attention, but we've had good crowds for our playoff games and that pumps us up," said third baseman Lounette Jackson, who drove in both runs.
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Escalon was hoping to celebrate two section championships this spring — the baseball team was 26-0, but lost its playoff opener 7-2 Tuesday.
That leaves the sports-minded town with one team to follow — and a couple of hundred were on hand for the victory.
They'll be back today when the Cougars face Patterson (24-4) at noon at Arnaiz Stadium. Patterson won twice Friday — beating Hilmar 7-0 and Calaveras 2-0 in the losers' bracket final — to earn a spot in the championship game.
Patterson's Mandy Sifuentes, who threw 12 shutout innings and picked up both victories, is ready to play two.
"I'll do whatever it takes to win a section title," she said. "I'm a senior, so this is it for me. I'm willing to leave everything on the field for a win."
Brooks, a sophomore who got two playoff wins Wednesday, fired a two-hitter with 13 strikeouts. Because the Cougars won, they weren't forced to play a second game Friday and would have to lose twice today to Patterson to be denied a title.
"We don't want to go to that second game. We want to win the title in that first game," said Jackson, whose RBI one-out double in the sixth scored Rachel Frasier from second.
"I saw a changeup coming and I got around on it," said Jackson, who drove it deep in the left-center field gap. "She was setting me up for a fastball on the next pitch. She was hoping seeing a changeup would slow my bat down."
Jackson provided the game-winning hit in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Patterson, too.
Escalon had taken a 1-0 lead in the fourth, when Jackson hit a shot to first base with Casey Schmidig on third. The first baseman fielded it, but the throw home was too late to catch a sliding Schmidig.
Escalon missed a chance to add a few runs when the Redskins (24-4) produced a defensive gem. With a Cougar on second, Jordan Costa's liner glanced off the right fielder's glove. A 9-4-2 relay caught the runner at the plate, and then a throw to third caught Costa trying to grab the extra base.
"When we got that first run, I knew it wasn't going to be enough because Calaveras is a hitting team," Jackson said.
It was quick feet, not a fast bat, that allowed Calaveras to tie the game at 1 in the sixth.
Kelsey Hull, the Redskins' fastest player, beat out a bunt and stole second and third with no outs. One out later, she scored on Tanna Bindi's looping single to right field.
Calaveras had threatened in the fifth, too, putting runners on second and third with one out. But Brooks fanned the next two batters to end the threat and the inning.
PATTERSON 7, HILMAR 0 — The Yellowjackets' (20-5) season is over, but the good news if they won't have to face Patterson again. This was the fourth time the two had met this season, and it was closest yet. Patterson outscored Hilmar 43-4 in their four games.
The Tigers didn't waste any time in this one, scoring five runs in the first to make it an easy game for Sifuentes. She had five shutout innings, before giving way to Kayla Souza — whose two-run single had capped the first inning. Hilmar hurt itself with four errors, leading to five unearned runs.
PATTERSON 2, CALAVERAS 0 — Sifuentes had a one-hitter with eight strikeouts and the Tigers got two in the fifth to end Calaveras' season. Sifuentes issued a walk in the first and a single in the sixth — but not one other runner.
"My ball was moving up and down. It had a lot of movement," said Sifuentes, wearing a bandage to provide support to her sprained left ankle. "That's not going to keep me from pitching. No way."
Patterson's Jessyca Rico singled in the sixth, and after being bunted to second, came home on a single from Kiana Weinzheimer to make it 1-0. Weinzheimer later scored on Melissa Robles' sacrifice fly to center field.