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Section Champions - Oakdale Varsity Softball Claims D4 Crown
Haley Fuller slides head first to third and beats the throw to East Union shortstop Samantha Owen. - photo by Wayne Thallander

The varsity Lady Mustangs softball team ran the gauntlet known as the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Championships and were crowned the 2013-2014 Division 4 Champions on Saturday, May 17 at Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton. Oakdale went 4-0 over a three-day span, knocking off Los Banos 17-0, Ceres 11-0, Sierra 5-4 and East Union 3-0 during their postseason quest for the title.

Thursday, May 15 the girls made short work of both Los Banos and Ceres in opening day play, outscoring them a total of 28-0 behind lights out pitching from seniors Rylie Pena and Melinda Koppinger. The offense exploded in both games as sophomore Maddi Hackbarth went 3-for-4 against Los Banos including a pair of doubles and a triple, along with four RBIs. Sophomore Haley Fuller also made noise offensively as she went 2-for-4 with three RBIs of her own against Los Banos.

“We were more than fired up and ready to go. The Ceres game was close heading into the fifth (2-0 Oakdale). Ceres is a very good team with a strong lineup,” noted Oakdale head coach Larry Loger. “Melinda (Koppinger) shut them out for the second time this year. Maddi’s (Hackbarth) defense and leadership was key.”

You could cut the electricity with a knife as Friday night’s showdown featured Allie Walljasper and the Sierra Timberwolves. No love lost between these two ball clubs as Sierra, the defending D4 champions, and the Lady Mustangs – who beat Sierra to capture the 2011-2012 D4 championship looked to battle it out once again. Oakdale swept Sierra in the regular season and looked to continue their winning ways. Walljasper hit a solo home run to give the Timberwolves an early 1-0 lead in the top of the third. Oakdale would score two runs of their own in the bottom of the third to take a 2-1 lead. Adding a few more along the way, Oakdale had a 5-2 lead in the seventh, looking to close it out. Sierra, however, had other plans. Walljasper started off the inning, reaching base on an intentional walk. She would not be on base long as she was driven in by Taylor Moss to close the gap to 5-3. The Timberwolves would only score one more run before Koppinger closed it out for the Lady Mustangs.

“Sierra was able to get their hits but our defense held up and Melinda got the big strike outs when she needed them,” Loger said. “She faced a lot of pressure at the end of the game and beat them. Walljasper gave it her all against us, congratulations on a great career.”

Saturday morning, May 17 was for all the marbles. The finals came down to the co-Valley Oak League champions, as the Lady Mustangs faced the East Union Lady Lacers. The two schools developed a rivalry this season as the squads split their regular season matchups. East Union would take it to a whole new level after they defeated the Mustangs in April, calling out the team via social media.

“There was no way we were going to lose to EU, none of us were about to let that happen,” Maddi Hackbarth shared.

Oakdale drew first blood in the top of the second inning as junior Caylie O’Neal knocked in Haley Fuller on a RBI single. The Mustangs looked to advance their lead but a controversial call erased a Mustangs’ run as Kindra Hackbarth drove the ball over third base that brought Melanie Benge home. On the play, O’Neal was rounding second and heading to third, when she was tracked down at third. The home plate umpire called her out and said she was tagged prior to Benge crossing home plate, disallowing the run. Benge, however, appeared to be already turned around and watching O’Neal get tagged out at third while on her way back to the dugout.

The Lady Mustangs, however, bounced back from that lost run as the Hackbarth sisters turned an amazing double play. East Union’s Jordan Vinson foul tipped a bunt that was caught by Maddi Hackbarth, East Union’s Cherish Burks took off to second but was gunned down by Maddi who threw it to twin sister Kindra, who was covering second.

“We’ve worked on that play during practice and we finally got to use it,” Maddi said with excitement.

Senior Anneliese “Shorty” Davis powered the ball down the third base line for an RBI single to score Fuller from second to give Oakdale a 2-0 lead in the top of the sixth. East Union looked to make thing interesting and had the bases loaded with two outs when Valerie Ramos hit the ball deep to left field, but O’Neal made the adjustment and caught the ball to get out of the inning.

Oakdale’s Lauren Sanders put the game out of reach as she slammed the ball deep to center field to bring in O’Neal to give the Lady Mustangs a 3-0 lead in the seventh.

The Lady Lancers kept the drama alive in the bottom of the inning, with a bunt single stretched to a double on an overthrow. However, Oakdale would get out of the jam as the next batter hit into a double play to end the game and give Oakdale its second D4 title in three years.

“We (the seniors) had a choice to make. Go to our senior trip to Disneyland, or play softball. We chose to play and it was worth it,” senior Hanna Holland said with excitement.

“We wanted to bring the title back to Oakdale and really wanted to win this for our seniors. I’m so glad we did because they have worked very hard for this and they deserve to go out on top,” O’Neal said in praising the team.

Coach Loger, who has been a part of the team for 14-plus seasons, said “East Union is a great team. Our two senior pitchers (Pena and Koppinger) shutting them out in such a big game was phenomenal.

“Our defense was solid throughout the entire playoffs. We outscored our opponents 36-4 and committed two errors in the four games. Thanks to all the coaches and all of our supporters.”