Thirty-one games into the softball season, Oakdale High’s varsity squad saw one play decide the fate of their collective hopes and dreams.
With a Los Banos runner sprinting home in the bottom of an extra inning frame, Shelby Reali took the cutoff from shallow left center and launched a strike to home plate. The throw just beat a sliding Tigers runner, but squeezed loose from the grasp of the catcher.
The slide plated the last score of a 5-4 Los Banos win in the consolation semifinals of the Division IV Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs at the Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton on Friday. Los Banos went on to beat Cosumnes Oaks and Sierra in consecutive bouts to reach the “if game” of the section finals, where Sierra won to take home a D-IV title.
Oakdale had aspirations of seeing Sierra after the two teams went 1-1 in Valley Oak League play, but saw a misplay in the outfield and a dropped ball at the plate end their season abruptly in the eighth inning on Friday.
“I started to get excited when it looked like it was going to be an out,” Oakdale pitcher Brianna Parker said. “Then I saw the ball roll away from the play and my heart just stopped.”
The sequence ended a heroic Oakdale playoff push made without San Jose State-bound Marissa Toy (shortstop), who suffered a high-ankle sprain just one day before the bracket started.
“It’s tough because I really wanted to be out there,” Toy said. “I was on the edge of my crutches the whole time.”
Things got worse for Oakdale when four-year Mustang catcher Brooke Magnussen broke bones in her hand during a foul tip in a 3-2 loss to Cosumnes Oaks (Oakdale led 2-0 before the injury) in the second round.
But the injuries did little to stifle Mustang demeanor. Kaila Olson moved to shortstop, leaving a vacancy at second base that Stephanie Fauria filled masterfully throughout the tourney. Francesca Orvis and Lauren Sanders filled in for Magnussen behind the plate as well.
“We stayed strong as a team and didn’t let losses to our lineup stop us from being motivated,” Parker said. “It was nice to see the other girls step up.”
Parker stepped up big time in the Los Banos game with a two-run, two-out home run to plate Shelby Cordova in the opening frame. She finished 3 for 4 at the plate and pitched a terrific game, though costly defensive errors spelled trouble against aggressive Los Banos runners.
“It was kind of disappointing to get to that important of a game after a good season and play so poorly,” Oakdale coach Larry Loger said. “I think we could have beat Los Banos in that game and had a good shot of getting into the finals like they did.”
Oakdale was in danger of dropping a first-round game with Patterson on May 19, but a Magnussen sacrifice bunt moved Reali to third before a Rylie Pena single up the middle tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth.
Patterson fired back with a leadoff triple and score, but Ghianna Falconi singled on an 0-2 count before scoring on a deep sacrifice fly from Reali. The deadlock lasted into extra innings and the 10th inning California tiebreaker, where Taylor Sanders scored on a passed ball to win the game.
Oakdale nabbed a 2-0 lead on Cosumnes Oaks a round later, but slipped to the consolation bracket when CO rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh and final inning. Reali shut out Cosumnes Oaks for six straight innings for a strong performance on the mound. Parker, a three-time VOL pitcher of the year, was fantastic throughout the tourney.
“We went 22-8-1 this year and we beat some good teams,” Loger said. “Sierra is young and obviously going to be good for a while, but now they get to know what it’s like where everyone wants to beat them and everyone highlights them as the big game on their schedule.
“Let’s see how they hold up to that.”