STOCKTON -- Through six innings, Oakdale High's softball team made every play it had to make to keep alive its bid for a Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship.
They had kept Bear River's Courtney Ceo off base, sending the Bruins' usually potent attack into hibernation. But one mistake was all it took for Ceo to secure a third straight section title and send Oakdale home with a plaque rather than a section banner.
Given a second opportunity in the bottom of the seventh, after her pop-up was dropped in foul territory for an error, Ceo tripled in the winning run in the Bruins' 2-1 victory.
"When I saw the catcher under my pop-up, I thought that would be it," said Ceo, a .567 hitter who has committed to Oregon. "When she dropped it, that was all that I needed."
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With a runner on first, Ceo hit a shoulder-high pitch to the right-field wall to bring home the winning run for the Bruins' third straight title.
The leadoff hitter got on by dropping a looper in front of second base, a ball that landed between three Mustangs, and scored easily from first.
Bri Parker went seven solid innings against one of the section's top hitting teams. She struck out Ceo with the bases full and the game tied in the fifth, firing a rise ball that Ceo couldn't catch up to.
Parker pitched with runners on much of the day, but the occasional strikeout and crisp defense had kept Bear River (26-4) quiet.
Oakdale (24-7) tied the game in the second when Monique Galvan doubled into the right-field corner, and scored when the Bruins threw away a ball while going for a double play.
The Mustangs' best chance to go ahead was in the fifth, when Andrea Lutz was hit by a pitch and got to second on a passed ball. After a failed sacrifice and pop fly, Katy Rissetto lined a shot to the pitcher. Kenzie Billings stabbed at the ball, knocking it down to keep it from going to center field. She then scooped up the ball and threw out Rissetto.
Oakdale had to win twice to earn a section title, because it was in the losers' bracket by virtue of Friday's 5-2 loss to Bear River. Oakdale played as a different team Saturday.
Gone were the fielding and running flaws that had led to the Bear River loss. The runners were alert, taking a base when possible and staying on the bag when it was prudent.