STOCKTON -- Lounette Jackson often asked herself why Escalon High coach Dianne Teixeira drove the Cougars so hard during practice.
The junior got her answer Saturday.
The Cougars survived a grueling 17 innings, playing in 100-degree heat, to capture the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V softball crown. It's the first-ever girls' team title for Escalon.
After dropping a 10-inning decision to Patterson, Escalon rebounded to claim the do-or-die game 6-1 -- scoring five runs in the seventh.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Merced Sun-Star
"They push us hard in practice. They expect the best from us every time we take the field," Jackson said. "When you have a day like this, it reminds you that all the work has paid off."
The Tigers, 2-0 losers to Escalon on Wednesday, came out of the losers' bracket to reach the finals. Patterson's Mandy Sifuentes single-handedly made sure the section final would go to a second game -- pitching a 10-inning, two-hit shutout with a career-high 20 strikeouts, and driving in the lone run for a 1-0 win.
Sifuentes shut down the Cougars most of the second game, too, before Kattie Schmidig beat out an infield single to open the seventh. After Jordon Costa reached on an error, Breanna Brodie delivered the game's decisive blow.
The junior turned on an inside pitch, lining it to the left-field corner to bring home both runners for a 3-1 lead. Samantha Lorigo walked, but rather than stop at first, she kept going to second -- and Brodie raced home while the Tigers tried to get Lorigo out in a rundown.
Lorigo, safe at second, scored on Jackson's single and it was clear the Cougars had a title.
"I also play catcher, so I'm able to recognize the spins of the ball and I'm pretty good at figuring out where the pitch is going," said Brodie, who starts in right field. "I could see it coming inside, so I made sure to stay out in front of it."
Brodie's hit gave Caitlin Brooks lots of cushion to finish the game. The sophomore gave up just two hits in the nightcap -- after allowing two hits in the 10-inning opener -- and finished with 16 strikeouts while going all 17 innings.
Sifuentes, who didn't walker in the batter in the opener, struck out seven in the nightcap to finish with 27 strikeouts and three walks.
"She was throwing well today, but if you see a pitcher enough, you should figure her out," said Brodie, who was getting her seventh at-bat against Sifuentes in the seventh. "With two runners on, after going through that 10-inning game, that really drove me to swing hard.
"I think everyone felt the heat. Caitlin, though, she was going strong. I think she could have kept going, but it was time to win it."
In the first game, the tiebreaker rule was used in the 10th. Each team put a runner on second, but Escalon stranded its runner in the top of the inning. Patterson capitalized, bunting the runner over, then Rebecca Hinojos slapped an outside pitch up the middle to bring in the run.