In a season where a galvanizing event changed their course, Escalon’s varsity softball girls came home with the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title, the third straight year they have won the blue banner.
They earned the crown with an 11-6 victory over Linden on Tuesday night, May 21, battling the Lady Lions at Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton.
An up and down campaign early on saw Escalon play to a 4-5-1 mark in their first 10 games, including a loss to Ripon to start off Trans-Valley League action. The preseason also featured a 2-1 win against Linden back on Feb. 26, the team they would beat twice more in the playoffs to bring home the title.
They evened their TVL mark at 1-1 with a March 18 win against Hughson … and then faced their toughest time as a team, grieving the loss of Terry Brooks, wife of head coach Art Brooks and mother of assistant coach Caitlin Brooks. She lost her longtime battle with cancer, passing away on March 20.
“They basically hit a crossroads in the middle of the season and took it into their own hands,” Brooks explained. “They dedicated it (the season) to Terry and after that they didn’t let anything get in their way.”
From that point on, the girls compiled a 15-3 record, their only losses coming in a league game against Ripon and two games in Spring Break tournament play. They closed out the year on an eight-game winning streak, including three straight in playoff action.
“It was a pretty exciting game, we were the home team,” Brooks said of the May 21 contest, which started Tuesday evening after Linden defeated Waterford in the semifinals.
Taking the mound for the game was senior Bella Strach, who got the start in all three playoff contests. Earlier action saw Escalon take an 11-1 win over Waterford on May 15 and a 3-2 decision against Linden on May 17.
“Linden started off with two runs in the first, then we got three in the second,” Brooks said of the finale. “Linden scored another in the fifth to tie it up; we went ahead with one in the bottom of the fifth.”
That put Escalon in the lead, 4-3, but the Lady Lions battled, refusing to go away.
“They came back with three more to go up, 6-4,” Brooks noted.
Not to be outdone, Escalon found a way to push seven runs across the plate in the bottom of the sixth.
“Brooke Davis doubled, Malia Babasa walked and Lexy Underwood got a bunt single to load the bases,” explained Brooks. “Then Bella singled to drive in a run to make it 6-5.”
Sage Davis stepped in and drilled a two-run double, driving in the tying and go-ahead runs.
“Hailie Webster then hit a three-run homer to make it 10-6,” Brooks said of the hit parade continuing, the senior sending the ball over the left field fence.
Ariel Astabie singled and stole second, coming in to score on an RBI single from Brooke Davis to make it 11-6 before Linden could record the third out of the inning. Linden was unable to come back from the deficit and Escalon had its third straight Section title in hand.
“They showed a lot of heart,” Brooks said of his squad. “Linden was not going to give up but we just wanted it more.”
In the championship game, Webster went 3-for-3 with three runs driven in; Sage Davis was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI; Brooke Davis went 3-for-4.
“As a team we had 13 hits,” Brooks said.
Along with the multi-hit games, contributing one hit each were Babasa, Underwood, Strach, Astabie and Brooke Campbell.
Sage Davis had the hot bat for the Lady Cougars during the playoff run, collecting 11 RBI in the three games.
Escalon went 10-2 in league play, finishing second, and were 19-8-1 overall.
“A three-peat, that is actually pretty crazy,” Brooks added of another championship run. “The girls were pretty happy.”