If Oakdale High’s varsity softball team had played Sierra’s No. 17 nationally-ranked squad in the pages of a cascading flipbook on April 12, they wouldn’t have had a chance.
But this game wasn’t played on paper.
Oakdale pushed away from a 1-1 deadlock after two frames with runs in the third and sixth innings to stun the highly-touted Timberwolves with a 3-1 Lady Mustang victory at Sierra’s Manteca campus.
The win marked another key time in two years that Oakdale has beaten Sierra pitcher and LSU-committed Allison Walljasper. The previous win was in the 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section finals.
“Our players were very determined and ready for the challenge,” Oakdale coach Larry Loger said. “With the success we had last year against Sierra, the girls knew they could do it again.”
Sierra appeared as No. 9 in the MaxPreps.com Xcellent 25 on April 2, but dropped to 17th after an upset defeat to Valley Oak League leader, East Union, two days later.
Sierra (15-2-0 overall, 6-2 VOL), East Union (15-3-1, 6-1), Oakdale (12-6-1, 5-2) and Kimball (11-5, 3-2) are all considered four of the best teams in the state and SJS.
Oakdale wouldn’t be in the same conversation if not for a dazzling seven-game win streak that began with an unlikely comeback over Kimball on April 3. The Jaguars blasted East Union 9-0 on April 12, but it was only the Lancer’s first conference defeat.
Of the four top VOL teams, Oakdale and Sierra are the only ones to have met twice. The pressure to win league contests against one of the other four will be palpable as the conference schedule draws to an end.
Oakdale made a huge step toward staying in contention for the league title and one of only three playoff seeds by landing two earned runs and four hits off Walljasper. Sarah Peterson (run, RBI) had three of those base knocks while Kindra Hackbarth hit, walked, stole a base and scored on one of four Sierra errors. Hanna Holland walked and scored while Lauren Sanders belted a sacrifice RBI.
Rylie Pena sealed the win with seven brilliant innings.
“Rylie pitched through some tough situations and got stronger as the game went on,” Loger said. “We put ourselves right back into the race for a league title and a playoff berth.”
Oakdale had dispatched Manteca with a 9-1 win two days prior. The Lady Mustangs led just 2-0 after three innings, but scored five in the bottom of the fourth and two more in the fifth.
Pena tossed six innings and Melinda Koppinger one while Hackbarth (3 for 4, run, RBI, double, two stolen bases) was the team leader at the plate. Sanders (2 for 2, run), Haley Fuller (2 for 3, run, two RBIs, triple), Pena (double) and Kelsey Hardey (RBI single) also swung the bat well.
Oakdale hosts Weston Ranch in a rematch of the NorCal Classic Gold Bracket championship, today, April 17. The girls are at Lathrop on Friday, April 19.
The JV Lady Mustangs suffered their first conference defeat in 4-3 fashion to Sierra, but bested Manteca 10-0 and remain atop the conference standings after prior wins over Kimball and East Union.
“We are having a really good season so far,” Oakdale coach Allison Branco said. “We have won all of our games, except two.”
Madison Gambini tossed five strong innings with just one hit and five strikeouts against Manteca. She watched Megan Reali bat 2 for 3 with three runs and a triple while Kaitlin Burke and Melanie Bench each belted a hit with two runs knocked in.
Benge struck out seven in six innings with five hits allowed to Sierra. Benge and Caylie O’Neal landed one each hit in the loss.