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Lady Cougars Claim Second Straight Softball Section Title
None of the wins came easy, but they came, and Escalon's varsity softball girls repeated as Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champions, putting away Hughson 2-0 in a best two-out-of-three game format Friday and Saturday.

The girls, who won the Section blue banner last year, successfully defended that championship behind stellar pitching, top-notch defense and a never-say-die attitude. They also were named as the number one team in the state in Division IV by Cal-Hi Sports.

"With Caitlin, we are confident in her and defensively, we were just solid," said head coach Dianne Teixeira, noting that pitcher Caitlin Brooks continued to keep opposing hitters off balance throughout the playoff run.

Escalon began the playoffs with a Trans-Valley League title in hand and faced off first with Central Catholic in a 5 p.m. game Tuesday, May 18. All games were at Arnaiz Field in Stockton. They shut out Central 3-0, with the Central team coming in as the number three seed. Escalon got its runs in the second inning, with Katie Heflin reaching on an error, followed by a Breanna Brodie single and Shelise Hatfield reaching on an error. A couple of fielder's choice plays were then mixed in and Casey Schmidig had a two-RBI double to give Escalon the lead.

Central couldn't get much going, managing just two hits on the day. Escalon had five hits. Schmidig and Rachel Frasier each had a double, Lounette Jackson had a hit and Brodie had two hits.

Brooks struck out 11.

The win set up the Lady Cougars to play Hilmar in a 7 p.m. contest and the game went extra innings, with neither team able to get a run across in regulation. In the 11th, they went to the international tiebreaker rule and that put catcher Tori Jones on second base. With Schmidig at the plate to sacrifice, she got the bunt down and the Hilmar fielder made a bad throw to first, and Jones took full advantage, never stopping as she rounded third and brought the winning run home.

Escalon had three hits; Hilmar had four in the game. Brooks had a single and a double; Brodie had a single.

"Caitlin stuck out 22 of 39 batters, no walks," said Teixeira.

On Friday, the Lady Cougars met up with Hughson to start the final round and eked out a 2-1 win.

"We got one in the second, one in the seventh, they got theirs in the third," noted Teixeira.

In the second, Sam Lorigo singled and was moved to second on a sacrifice by Brodie. She then scored on an RBI single from Hatfield to take a 1-0 lead. After seeing Hughson tie it up, the top seed Lady Cougars won it in their final at bat.

"Tori walked and we put Ami Hood in to run," explained Teixeira.

After two consecutive strikeouts, Jackson ripped an RBI single to bring home the winning run. Escalon had seven hits on the day to Hughson's two and Brooks struck out nine. Hits came from Lorigo, Hatfield, Frasier, Brooks, a double from Brodie and two hits from Jackson.

The win on Friday night set up the Saturday showdown, with Escalon having to win one game to claim the Section crown. Hughson would have had to win the first game on Saturday to force a second, but Escalon won the opener in extra innings to retain the title.

Teixeira said the Lady Cougars were working on the premise that any team can be champions once, but the true measure of a champion is being able to defend that title.

There was also some extra desire on the part of the Lady Cougars, with Hughson winning a lopsided game late in the regular season against Escalon.

"We just wanted to get them from the get go," Teixeira said, noting that bad feelings lingered from the game in which an umpire ruled Brooks was making illegal pitches and the Hughson team rode the momentum of her ouster from the circle to a big TVL win.

"After all that hoopla... we just wanted to prove to them that yes, we are better," Teixeira said.

The teams did battle on Saturday, playing through a scoreless regulation seven-inning game.

"We had runners in scoring position a couple of times," said Teixeira. "We got a two out double from Lou (Jackson) in the fourth, but couldn't get her in. We had runners on in the fifth, Sam Lorigo was on third and Shelise had a fly out, the throw to home was off line and Sam scored but Hughson appealed, they threw it back to third and the umpire said Sam didn't tag up."

Lorigo was called out on the play, even though Teixeira said she felt the senior didn't leave early, and in fact waited a bit after the catch was made in the outfield. Regardless, the umpire ruled her out and the scoreless tie continued.

Neither team scored in the eighth but Escalon won the game in the bottom of the ninth.

"Casey was up, she was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game," said Teixeira.

After an unsuccessful sacrifice attempt, Jackson singled and Brooks, on a 2-2 pitch with one out, put the ball over the left center field fence for a 3-0 Lady Cougars victory.

Brooks struck out 12 and allowed just two hits in the championship game. Escalon got two hits from Jackson, two from Brooks and one each from Schmidig and Lorigo.

"Lounette made a bunch of great plays (in the postseason) and Tori was awesome behind the plate," added Teixeira. "Offensively, we were patient, putting the ball in play, we knew one would get through."

Teixeira said the blue banner is vindication for the team and for Brooks, who was snubbed by the league in the MVP voting.

"For her to finish it off the way she did, she is certainly deserving of something," Teixeira said. "People are probably tired of hearing about Caitlin Brooks and Escalon but we were the best this season ... we've got the blue flag to prove it."