STOCKTON — Calaveras softball head coach Mike Koepp was worried how his team would respond Saturday under the blazing sun after a tough loss minutes earlier.
Right before taking the field to face the Los Banos Tigers in a win-or-go-home late afternoon clash, Koepp gathered his young team in the shady stadium dugout at Arnaiz Softball Complex.
“We’re gonna figure out who we are right now,” Koepp said and finished his pep talk with, “Let’s not let this be our last game.”
The Mother Lode League champions and No. 2 seed responded by jumping on the Tigers for seven runs in the first three innings to win 7-3 and stay alive in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Softball Playoffs.
“We had a talk before the game and I told these girls, they’re too good of a team to be done,” Koepp said. “I was worried about coming into that second game, it was a hot, long day, but we had a great response.”
Calaveras is one of three teams left in the double-elimination bracket along with No. 6 Sierra and No. 5 Marysville, who will play at 5 p.m. Wednesday for a berth in the final.
Calaveras will play the loser of that contest at approximately 7:15 p.m. The winner will play for a section title Friday night.
Facing the Tigers in an elimination game, Koepp handed the ball to his only senior, Kayla Kappmeyer.
The senior lefty wanted the ball. She “always wants the ball,” but felt especially prepared. Kappmeyer responded with a seven-inning complete game. She allowed six hits and two earned runs while striking out eight.
Kappmeyer also started a first-inning three-run rally with a lead-off single. She scored on a bloop double to left by sophomore Alexis “Red” Dawe. Sophomore Alanda Cardon blooped a triple down the right field line and scored on an errant throw for a 3-0 lead.
“One heck of a job by our only senior,” Koepp said. “She did a heck of a job against the team that knocked off the No. 1 seed (Casa Roble). She threw strikes, she got ahead, competed and gave us the opportunity to win. What else can you ask of a senior leader.”
Kappmeyer has grown into the sole-senior role this season. But her teammates can’t really understand that she’s about to play her last game.
“It’s tough because nobody can really relate to me,” Kappmeyer said. “This could be my last game, nobody else understands how emotional that can be. But I was the only freshman on a team with seniors and now I’m the only senior. But I like taking on the role of senior leadership.”
Calaveras added two more runs in the second, both with two outs.
Freshman MacKenna Steele doubled off the center field wall to plate Coco Bolin. Dawe followed with a smash to left center field for an RBI double.
Calaveras added two more in the third for a 7-0 lead. Haley Chaboya singled home Madison Wylie who had reached on an error. Bri Head brought home Chaboya with a double down the right field line.
Calaveras managed just one hit and two baserunners over the last three innings but with Kappmeyer dealing, seven was more than enough.
“She was on from the beginning and kept it going the whole game,” said Dawe, the catcher for both games.
Calaveras (25-5) hasn’t lost two straight games all season which means it also hasn’t faced too much adversity.
“I wanted to see our toughness after that first game,” Koepp said. “Offensively and defensively we’ve been pretty solid all year. We’ve been taking care of business. I know we have toughness and I know we have attitude, I see that a lot, but that was the question, where was that? And I think they answered that real fast with three runs in the first inning.”
Calaveras had chances against Sierra, including 14 base runners, but couldn’t push runs across the plate in a 5-1 defeat.
Timberwolves star Lindsey Walljasper was a one person wrecking crew. The junior righthander tossed a complete game with 11 strikeouts. She also slugged a pair of home runs, the first a two-run shot in the first, the second a solo blast to center.
“We had a lot of energy and lot a of chances to score, but I think maybe it got into our heads,” Kappmeyer said. “We didn’t capitalize on errors or when we had runners on we just couldn’t finish.”
When Kappmeyer talks about energy, that comes in a variety of ways, most notably the cheering and chanting from the dugout.
Walljasper would miss the strike zone, and Calaveras players would chant in different tones at different times, “Ball, ball, ball, ball, ball, ball, ball, ball,” a chant that was later stolen by Sierra, or was at least used first by Calaveras.
Calaveras had eight hits, all singles, four walks and two hit batters. But not even the rally props, like the viking horn helmet, the sombrero, the cowboy hat nor the red, white and blue shiny satin-looking hat could help Calaveras score.
Kappmeyer had two hits, Dawe singled, walked twice and was hit, Steele singled, Cardon singled home a run and walked, Bolin, Wylie and Jordyn Okumura singled and Keelie Koepp walked and was hit by a pitch.
Calaveras is looking to carry over the same attitude into Wednesday that they had against Los Banos, especially in those first few innings.
“We need to be a little more pissed off and confident,” Dawe said. “But not too confident.”