A loss to hard-hitting Kimball put Oakdale High’s Valley Oak League softball championship in jeopardy, but the wheel of fortune spun Oakdale’s way during a 1-0 thriller over playoff-bound Sierra on April 30.
The showing ignited a three-game win streak over just four days to guarantee Oakdale (12-1 VOL, 22-2-1 overall) the No. 1 seed from the VOL into the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Sierra (14-4-1, 11-3) won a section title a season ago and returns LSU-bound pitching phenom Allison Walljasper, but fell to Kimball (winners of 12 straight) 5-4 on April 19 and will settle for the VOL’s No. 3 seed. Between Oakdale, Kimball and Sierra, the VOL will send teams to the postseason with a combined 21-4-1 record against nonleague opponents. Sierra and Kimball were both beaten by Division V juggernaut, Hughson (22-1).
It’s a stacked lineup of VOL playoff qualifiers, and a nightmare for other seeds across the bracket. Vista del Lago (16-4 overall) went 9-1 to win the Sierra Valley Conference, but will play Sierra in a one-and-done first round of playoffs.
Central Catholic (12-10-1), Los Banos (14-8-1) and Ceres (15-7) were all 9-2 in the Western Athletic Conference as of Monday with one game to play, but their resulting seeds will see Cosumnes Oaks (No. 1), Kimball (No. 2) and play Union Mine in an out-bracket for the right to face Oakdale (No. 3).
Oakdale plays the winner of that game on May 17 (5 p.m.) at the Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton. Since Oakdale sealed the top seed from the VOL, the Mustangs won’t see a VOL team until possibly the championship semifinals or the consolation bracket (both on May 18).
“It’s nice to know we can have a couple rounds in the playoffs without facing (Kimball or Sierra),” Oakdale coach Larry Loger said. “We know some of the other teams but we don’t get to see them and we are very proud to be the top of three very good playoff teams from our league.”
Oakdale was at Sonora to wrap conference play on Monday. The team handed out its senior awards on Tuesday and hosts an awards banquet today, May 9. The ceremonies break up the schedule of practice as the team gets healthy and prepares for playoffs.
Oakdale beat Sonora 12-0 on May 1 after two innings each from pitchers Shelby Reali and Anneliese Davis and one from Melinda Koppinger (also 1 for 1, three RBIs). Shelby Cordova hit 1 for 1 with two runs, two RBIs and a home run while Stephanie Fauria (2 for 3, two RBIs) and Hanna Holland (double, two runs) came through at the plate.
Two days later Oakdale cruised past Manteca on Senior Day in 12-2 fashion to seal the conference title and No. 1 seed. Reali threw six strikeouts in a quick shutout while Ghianna Falconi (2 for 4, two doubles), Sarah Peterson (3 for 4, two runs), Cordova (2 for 4, two runs, double), Natalie Faires (1 for 1), Fauria (1 for 3, two runs, three RBIs, double) and Davis (1 for 2, run, two RBIs, triple) did damage at the dish.
“Senior Day, at home, a game to win the VOL; a tough task for anyone to beat us,” Loger said. “We are getting healthy and hot right before the playoffs. Thanks to our seniors Kaila Olson, Ghianna Falconi, Shelby Reali, and Stephanie Fauria for all the hard work throughout their years in our program.”