By PETE SIMONCINI
The Oakdale Mustangs exploded for 19 runs on 30 hits in the first two games of the 2023 Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 softball playoffs on May 16 and 18.
In their first playoff game, a home match against the 12th seeded Gauchos of El Capitan High School from Merced, the fifth seeded Mustangs rode overpowering pitching performances from Delainey and Raegan Everett, complemented by an offense that connected for 11 hits, to earn a 9-1 victory. Delainey Everett got the start from head coach Larry Loger and was unhittable in four out of the five innings she worked. She fanned nine of the first 10 batters she faced and ended with 12 total for the game while surrendering only one run and two hits, all of which came in the fourth inning. With temperatures hovering near 90 degrees, head coach Larry Loger opted to replace Delainey with Raegan for the final two innings. Raegen responded by whiffing each of the six batters she faced. In the end, only three Gauchos reached base in the game against the Everett sisters.
After finishing her final home game in a brilliant four-year high school career, a tearful Delainey noted, “We came in here with the mindset of coming out and not underestimating any team especially now it’s playoffs.”
She also provided a balanced assessment of her pitching performance: “I did feel I had overpowering stuff today. I had to locate because sometimes I have a tendency to just throw it as hard as I can and not really focus on placement. So today I was really working on hitting my locations and just preparing myself for our next games.”
Offensively, the Mustangs hit the ball sharply but most of their balls were hit at an opposing fielder. Some strokes were productive, however. In the first inning, with two out, catcher Presley Barnes continued her torrid season from the plate by scorching a triple to right center field. Barnes’ pinch runner, Jaelyn Lee, was then knocked in by Delainey Everett’s single. The Mustangs also pushed runs across the plate in the second and third innings on two hits by third baseman Morgan Wright (one in each inning) and Barnes. Morgan Merzon also produced an RBI on a fielder’s choice.
They broke the game open in their half of the sixth. Merzon was the beneficiary of a two-base error followed by hits from pinch hitter Katy Thomasson and Bailey Peterson, a walk to Jayci Volonte, Briley Everett being hit by a pitch and a double by Delainey Everett which cleared the bases for three more RBI; she finished the game with four.
On Thursday, May 18 the Mustangs traveled to face off against the fourth seeded Pioneer Patriots of Woodland, dispatching the home team 10-1 in a laugher, connecting for 19 hits in the process. The top of the first inning provided a foreshadowing of the rest of Thursday’s game as Volonte opened play with a line drive single to center field. Briley Everett then beat out a bunt down the third base line sending Volonte to second. Barnes continued her season’s offensive tear by next driving the ball over the center field fence to get the Mustangs out to a three-run lead.
Starting her second game of the playoffs, Delainey Everett struggled a bit in the bottom of the first by walking the leadoff batter and was then hurt by an infield error which sent the baserunner to third, leaving runners at the corners. Everett dug deep on the third batter and got a swinging strikeout. The Patriot runner on first broke for second as the Patriots’ cleanup hitter was at the plate. Barnes threw out that runner but the runner at third crossed the plate on the play, bringing in the only run of the game for the home team. Everett then recorded her second strikeout to get out of the inning.
From that point on, it was all Oakdale. The Mustangs scored two runs in the second on hits by Madison Bohannon, Peterson, Briley Everett (RBI), and Barnes (RBI). In their half of the fifth, the Mustangs tallied yet another run on a double by Delainey Everett (Lee then came in to run for the pitcher), a single by Raegan Everett, and an RBI single by Wright. The Mustangs put the game out of reach in their half of the sixth inning when Peterson doubled followed by a one-out single by Thomasson, who pinch hit for Briley Everett. Peterson was cut down at home plate trying to score on the play, however. Nevertheless, the Mustangs were not done. Loger reinserted Briley Everett to run for Thomasson. Everett used her speed to score from first as Barnes connected for her third hit of the game and her fifth RBI. Barnes went to second on the late throw to the plate. Delainey Everett then singled to right scoring Barnes and making the score 8-1. Raegan Everett put the finishing touch on as she nailed a line drive over the center field fence to put the Mustangs up 10-1.
The win put Oakdale into the semi-final round, where they traveled to face top seed and Valley Oak League rival Central Catholic on Tuesday, May 23. Oakdale's season ended there in a 1-0 loss; the game played after press time for the May 24 issue.
Central now moves on to the Division 3 championship game, at Cosumnes River College on Saturday, May 27 against No. 2 seed Ponderosa, which was a 4-3 winner over Vista del Lago in their semi-final contest.