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Golden Valley’s historic softball season continues. Cougars advance to Final Four.

Marissa Bertuccio talks about Golden Valley’s playoff win

Golden Valley's dream season continues as the Cougars start 2-0 in the playoffs for the first time. Cougars ace Marissa Bertuccio threw a one-hitter in Golden Valley's 7-0 win over East Union.
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Golden Valley's dream season continues as the Cougars start 2-0 in the playoffs for the first time. Cougars ace Marissa Bertuccio threw a one-hitter in Golden Valley's 7-0 win over East Union.

The Golden Valley High softball team is in uncharted territory for their program. The Cougars have never started 2-0 in the playoffs until securing Wednesday’s 7-0 win over East Union in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III quarterfinals at Golden Valley High.

The Cougars’ special season continues as they reach the Final Four in the bracket and will start the double-elimination portion of the tournament on Saturday against No. 2 seed Del Campo at the Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton at 9:30 a.m.

“This has been fun,” said Golden Valley coach Ross Cruickshanks. “Not only is this the most talented team I’ve coached, but it’s the best group of girls as far as getting along with each other. There’s no drama. They play for each other and that’s huge. It’s been the most rewarding year of softball for me.”

It’s been a season in which GV has made history and ended long droughts.

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Golden Valley senior Marissa Bertuccio delivers a pitch during the Cougars’ 7-0 win over East Union on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Bertuccio pitched a one-hit shutout. Shawn Jansen Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

The Cougars improved to 26-3 on the season with the victory. They earned a share of their first Central California Conference championship since 2005. They also made the playoffs for just the second time since 2006.

Now with each win, they’ve gone further in the playoffs than any team in program history.

“It’s exciting,” said Cougars ace Marissa Bertuccio. “I’ve been working three years for this. I knew this team could do it. I love these girls so much. To do it with them makes is way more special.”

The Cougars had to dig deep against No. 6 East Union. The game was scoreless headed into the bottom of the fifth inning with Bertuccio and East Union’s Hayley Leonard locked in a pitchers’ duel.

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Golden Valley High freshman Naomi Moore receives a high-five from teammate Maddy Stokes after scoring the first run of the game in the fifth inning against East Union on Wednesday afternoon at Golden Valley High in Merced, Calif. Shawn Jansen Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

Bertuccio drove in the first run of the game when her ground ball was misplayed in the infield to allow freshman Naomi Moore, who led off the inning with a double off the wall to give GV a 1-0 lead.

Sophomore Maddy Stokes delivered the big blow in the game when she tripled in three runs a few batters later to extend the lead to 4-0.

“I wanted to get at least one run in,” Stokes said. “I was so excited. My team was proud of me, our whole crowd was proud of me and I was proud of myself.”

While Bertuccio has garnered most of the attention, the Cougars have also relied on young players like Stokes and freshmen Moore and Kylie Diaz to make contributions throughout the season.

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Golden Valley sophomore Maddy Stokes celebrates after hitting a three-run triple during the fifth inning as the Cougars defeated East Union 7-0 on Wednesday in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs at Golden Valley High. Shawn Jansen Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

“They’ve been very big for us on defense and offense,” Bertuccio said. “I think they’ve been able to just be themselves. I don’t think they feel the pressure of us older players. They don’t have to worry about Maddie (Martinez) yelling at them if they make a mistake or if Marissa is going to be mad at them.

“They’ve been welcomed on the team like everybody else.”

The Cougars broke the game open with three more runs in the sixth inning as Martinez, Bertuccio and Vanessa Saltos all delivered run-scoring hits.

Golden Valley cranked out 10 hits in the game. Moore, Bertuccio and Martinez all had two hits.

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From left to right, Golden Valley’s Marissa Bertuccio, Maddie Martinez and Vanessa Saltos are all greeted by Cougars assistant coach Jennifer Bertuccio after scoring on a triple by Maddy Stokes during GV’s 7-0 win over East Union on Wednesday afternoon at Golden Valley High. Shawn Jansen Sjansen@mercedsun-star.com

Bertuccio performed up to her level in the circle, pitching a one-hit shutout with seven strikeouts. It was her second consecutive shutout in the playoffs.

Bertuccio improved to 26-3 on the season with a 0.31 ERA.

“I’m so happy Marissa gets to go out like this,” Cruickshanks said. “We came into the season with our goals. We wanted to make playoffs and take league. We accomplished both of those. This is the icing on the cake.”

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