Bringing home the blue Sac-Joaquin Section softball banner for the second year in a row was twice as nice for Escalon’s Lady Cougars. They earned the Division 5 title after completing an undefeated run through the Trans-Valley League and going into the playoffs as the top seed in D5.
Along the way, they defeated Waterford, Hilmar, Linden in extra innings and then Hilmar again in the Section final.
After a dramatic come-from-behind win on Thursday against a scrappy Linden team, the Lady Cougars controlled their own destiny, having to win just one game on Saturday, May 19 against Hilmar. They were able to do just that, with a pair of runs in the first inning, two more in the second and two insurance runs in the fifth.
“We worked hard, played as a team,” senior Molly Brown said of returning to the top of the division and getting their second straight banner.
At the start of the season, she said, it was hard not to focus on the ultimate prize, going back-to-back as Section champs.
“That was our goal,” Brown added. “We definitely had a strong bond, both years.”
The Chico-bound softball standout said the team just was able to come together when they needed it most and that made the difference.
The softball girls got a visit from the varsity baseball boys at practice on Friday, the boys offering high fives and sending good luck wishes with the girls for their game on Saturday.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” said Lady Cougar Bella Strach, who hurt opponents with her power throughout the postseason, including a pair of two-run homers against Hilmar in their first meeting on May 16. “We all put in the work ... we come out and do our job and it’s all about loving what you do.”
For the large, supportive hometown crowd that made three trips to Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton over four days last week, their attendance was noted and applauded by the team, as well as rewarded by seeing the girls and their head coach, Art Brooks, raise the blue banner yet again.
Senior Chardae Hoskins mowed down Hilmar with multiple strikeouts in the finale, but also worked out of several jams.
“Working with Chardae has been the greatest pleasure,” said sophomore catcher Hannah Boyd. “I think this year was even a little sweeter, winning the title.”
Hoskins said she feels the team rallying from a five-run deficit on Thursday to win in extra innings against Linden gave them the push they needed.
“I knew we had to come out and battle, be aggressive, just get through it for one more game,” she said of taking the field on Saturday. “We had that confidence going out there.”
Escalon claimed the title with a 6-0 decision and it was their fourth win over Hilmar this season.
“I am so proud of you guys,” an emotional Brooks told them after the presentation of the banner, caps and Section patches.
He also noted that the team members “all play for each other” and their chemistry and determination were big factors in bringing home the Section title.