STOCKTON - Calaveras' sensational season came to an endSaturdaywith consecutive losses against Hughson in the final of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V Championships at Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton.
Calaveras was trying to wrestle away the title from the 3-time defending champions, but the experienced Huskies were able to hold off the ambitious Redskins in the double elimination tournament, 4-1 and 16-5, the latter in six innings.
"That's a good team over there, a real experienced team at this level, in this situation," said Redskins head coach Mike Koepp. "We kind of unraveled a little bit at the end there. But what I told the girls was, 'You can't teach experience. They have it. They understand what needs to happen in order to be successful right here (title game).' We're gonna be better for it in the long run, for the girls that are coming back. Being in these pressure-packed games, it's hard, you can't teach that."
"It's just an honor to make it this far," said Redskins star senior Jennifer Scantlen, who finished the season hitting .483 with six home runs and 48 runs batted in. "We played our heart out. We didn't come away with the win, but we haven't made it this far in forever. It felt great to be here and to be in second place is great for us."
The Redskins looked like they might bury the Huskies early in Game 2 and runaway to their first title in almost 20 years.
Marissa Hukkanen and Grace Carr hit back-to-back singles in front of a Scantlen walk to load the bases. Megan Walters followed with a hard grounder into left field to bring home Hukkanen and the game's first run.
Kelly Volken capped the rally with a sacrifice fly to right field for a 2-0 lead after one inning.
In the second frame, the Redskins brought out their high power bats and started firing softballs at the outfield wall.
With one out, Katelyn Leatherman smacked a double to right center field. Kayla Kappmeyer, a couple of pitches later, belted an opposite field double over the left fielder's head that one-hopped the fence to plate Leatherman.
Hukkanen followed with a blast over the center fielder's head that went to the wall for the Redskins third straight two-bagger and a 4-0 lead. Hukkanen was thrown out trying to stretch her blast into a triple by a perfect relay.
But Carr singled and the Redskins rally was still on with their slugger Scantlen stepping to the plate.
Scantlen promptly pummeled a fastball to the left center field gap for what appeared to be a double that brought home Carr. But following the play, Hughson appealed to first base and it was ruled Scantlen missed the bag on her way to second.
After Koepp had a discussion, the home plate umpire, the three-man umpiring crew, plus a tournament official, huddled together with a rule book for about 10 minutes. After the meeting, Scantlen was called out and Carr was sent back to third base.
After that play, Calaveras managed just two more baserunners and saw its 4-0 lead disappear.
"It was a little buzzkill and to have a run taken away, but we were up 4-0 still," said Walters, the Skins star hurler who pitched with four stitches near the tip of her right index finger due to an injury earlier in the tournament. "But they came back and it went downhill."
"We had a chance to have a big knockout early, but we ran into an out at third base and then we don't touch first base on a ball to the wall," Koepp said. "In an inning where we hit the ball really well, and that's our MO (method of operation), we always have a big inning, we could've had an ever bigger inning and that stinks. Shoot, it's 4-0 still, but that's a good hitting team and we ran out of gas a little bit. We just haven't been in those situations enough to know how to pull through, suck it up, turn it around and not open the flood gates. They've been here so much, they play free and loose up and down the lineup, you could see the difference in the two teams.
"But the delay, it hurt us more in the fact that we lost a run and our inning ended like that. I don't think the girls had a problem with the delay. It just hurt to lose an out and a run."
After the delay, Hughson turned three singles into two runs in the third before grabbing the lead for good in the fourth.
With two outs and two on and Calaveras clinging to a 4-3 lead, Hughson's Jessica Garcia connected for a 3-run homer to right center and a 6-4 lead.
After Calaveras was retired in the home half of the fourth, the floodgates did indeed open for Hughson. Helped by a couple of Redskin errors, the Huskies broke open the game with five runs on four hits to make it 11-4.
Walters provided the last Calaveras run in the fifth with a solo home run, a majestic blast to center field.
"I think we played good," Carr said. "We were a little tired. We wanted it, but it didn't work out the way we wanted to."
"Our goals were to make it to playoffs," Scantlen said. "And if we made it through the first round we knew we would have a good chance of winning it. It came to where we got to the final game and we were playing so good. But in the beginning we were just trying to make it to playoffs and make sure we got a spot. We made it this far. We all played as a team and didn't have drama. We came together like sisters and played. We put our hearts and soul into every game."
In Game 1, Hughson struck for four first-inning runs and made them hold up.
The Redskins left two runners on base in each of the first three innings while pushing across the plate just one run. Calaveras left nine on base and hit just 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
After allowing the first four batters to reach and score, Walters was dominant, striking out eight while walking two.
"Going into the first game this morning, I thought we had a really good chance at winning," said Walters, who will attend the University of the Pacific on scholarship in the fall. "We didn't use our bats as well as we needed to. In the second game, we started off really good. And then we fell apart and we just couldn't come back. But I couldn't have asked for a better season or better teammates."
"They set the bar. They set the standard for what we're trying to achieve," Koepp said of his seniors Scantlen, Walters and Carr. "We want to compete for league titles and section titles. They did everything that I ever asked them to do. They were successful and we were successful with their help, and we're gonna miss them. It's hard to replace 3-4-5 hitters and a No.1 starting pitcher and two starting infielders. Those are only three girls but what they mean to what we do, they're gonna be missed. We've got younger players coming in and hopefully they will fill their shoes."
The Redskins finished the season 24-7 overall and 13-2 in the Mother Lode League, good for second place, one game behind Linden.
"Today just plain hurts, but you don't want one day to determine a season," Koepp said. "There are a lot of other schools that would've loved to have been in our shoes and have the opportunity to end their season like this."