Escalon softball faces familar foe

STOCKTON — With the potential winning run on third base in the 11th inning of scoreless game, Hilmar High's Stesha Brazil was not going to see a strike.

"I told Caitlin (Brooks) we can pitch high or we can pitch her low, but we're not going to throw her anything good," Escalon catcher Tori Jones said. "She's their big hitter and she had some good swings off Caitlin earlier in the game."

True to her word, Jones called for a high pitch and Brazil took a swing at it, popping it up behind home plate and giving Jones plenty of time to catch the ball.

Moments later, it was Jones scoring from third base with the winning run, giving the Cougars a 1-0 win over Hilmar in Tuesday's Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 winners' bracket final.

The defending champion Cougars (24-3) will face a familiar foe in Friday's winners' bracket final, as Hughson (22-6) made it an all-Trans-Valley League affair with a nine-inning, 3-2 upset of Western Athletic Conference champ Patterson.

It was the end of a long day for Patterson, which beat Modesto Christian 1-0 in eight innings in the first round.

While the first-round losers packed up and headed home, four survivors bounced right back to open the double-elimination portion of the tournament: Patterson (17-11) faces Hilmar (19-5) Friday, and the winner will stay on the field to play the loser of Hughson vs. Escalon in the losers' bracket final later that night.

Brooks continued her amazing run in the playoffs, striking out 21 and allowing just three hits to Hilmar.

One of those hits was a single by Brazil in the first inning, and the catcher — who will play at Houston University next fall — hit a wicked liner in the ninth that Escalon's third baseman stabbed.

The 11th opened with runner on second, the international tiebreaker, and that runner was on third with two out as Brazil came up. The powerful right-hander took a big cut at Brooks' first pitch and got under it, just like Jones had planned.

"She's going to want to hit because she's good at it, so we made sure she was going to hit the pitch we wanted to throw," said Jones, who started the bottom of the 11th on second base.

Leadoff hitter Casey Schmidig put down a bunt to get Jones to third, but Jones kept running and scored when Brazil's throw glanced off the first baseman's glove and rolled into right field to produce the game's lone run.

Hughson was forced to go extra innings, as well, though the Huskies appeared to have the win in hand after scoring two runs in the top of the eighth on Katelyn Harden's RBI single and an error. The Tigers, after being shut out for seven innings, tied it on RBI singles by Stephanie Cantu and Kianna Weinzheimer.

The Huskies plated the winning run in the ninth, as Krista Bava tripled to left-center and scored on Erica Mireles' groundout. Alyssa Coelho set down the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth and the Huskies' large crowd began celebrating.

Coelho allowed eight hits to the Tigers, but struck out 13 to keep the Tigers off the board through seven innings. Jessyca Rico, who leadoff triple sparked Patterson's two-run eighth, allowed only four hits but her defense committed four errors.

That's something that Coelho says she doesn't worry about.

"We've got an awesome defense behind me, and it means I can just go out there and pitch knowing they're going to catch anything that's hit," said Coelho, who is 1-2 vs. Escalon this season. "I've wanted another shot at Escalon so I'm glad it's them. This is another chance to beat them."

FIRST ROUND — Patterson provided a thrill in the first round when Stephanie Barraza's eighth-inning double drove in the only run for a 1-0 win over Modesto Christian. Weinzheimer, who had singled, circled the bases on Barraza's third hit of the game to make a winner out of Jessyca Rico (two-hitter, 12 strikeouts). ...

Brooks fired a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts, while Schmidig doubled in two runs in the second for a 3-0 win over Central Catholic. Two errors helped set up Schmidig's key hit. ...

Alicia Paine provided one of her best games of the season, tossing a two-hitter to shut down Mother Lode League champion Calaveras 3-0. Jessica DeSilva singled in a run in the fourth, then Alma Gallegos and Paine doubled in runs in the sixth and seventh. ...

Hughson used a three-run sixth to pull away for a 5-1 win over Linden, as Alyssa Coelho scattered five hits and Mireles and Madelyn Birchall each had two hits and an RBI.