PLEASANT Hill, CA – The bottom line in the 2019 North Coast Section Division I title game on Saturday afternoon at Diablo Valley College was it was way too much Nicole May in a 2-0 Foothill victory over Heritage.
In softball there are great hitters that don’t pitch, and great pitchers that don’t hit, but to be the top rated junior in the nation with an offer from Oklahoma she accepted, and to potentially join some of the other great names in California softball history, excelling both at the plate and in the circle is a prerequisite.
There is no question May can hit, and in fact there are those among the softball analysts that say what Oklahoma is looking for from here is to hit and play third base, but against high school talent she has been virtually un-hittable this season from the circle and Saturday was no different.
The Oklahoma-committed junior pitcher and slugger only gave up one hit, a walk and hit a batter, and she struck out 13 and provided the games only runs with a two-run home run in the third to lead Maxpreps Xcellent 25 No. 3, and Cal-Hi Sports No. 2 ranked and top-seeded Foothill to its second NCS D1 title, both in the last three years, and sixth section crown overall.
With two outs in the third and Amanda Mero on first after reaching on an error to lead off the inning, May had a 1-2 count. After fighting off a couple of pitches she hit a frozen rope-like shot that cleared the fence in the right-centerfield power alley by what looked like mere inches. From there, and with the way May has been pitching this season, things looked bleak for Heritage, and they were.
“I was just trying to go with the pitch and score the runner on base, and it went out, and I’ll take it,” said a beaming May, who hit her second home run of the NCS playoffs and fifth this season.
May’s fastball and riser usually tops out at around 62 miles per hour, but on Saturday there were several times she was a couple of ticks higher, and on top of it she was hitting her spots. The combination made a Cal-Hi Sports No. 9 ranked Heritage look like just another team May has mowed down.
“The thing about Nicole is in every big game she gets bigger, and it’s hard to maintain that kind of level,” Foothill Coach Matt Sweeney said. “Today she was just unbelievable.”
Despite the loss and an inability to hit May, Heritage was a formidable opponent and played well in losing.
“Heritage was the team we were supposed to play,” Sweeney remarked. “After we scrimmaged them before the season I told Coach (Ron) Rivers that unless one of us stubs our toe we would be playing in the championship. We came close but we never stubbed our toe.”
By not stubbing their toe and finishing 28-0 on the season Foothill makes NCS history.
Softball teams had gone 27-0 four times previously in the North Coast Section, with the last time and only time a Division I team accomplished the feat being when the 2014 Amador Valley group achieved the mark.
Foothill joined the 1995 Washington-Fremont, 2004 Ferndale and 2007 Clear Lake teams plus their cross-town arch rival at that team’s expense in the semifinals, but now with their win over the Patriots they stand alone as having the greatest season in NCS history.
“I really never paid any attention to the winning streak, and until I was told before the game no team had ever gone 28-0 I didn’t know that either,” Sweeney said.
“We won the Livermore Stampede, and that’s an important tournament, but the goal every year is to hang an NCS banner,” continued Sweeney. “There are no state championships yet, so this is it and all that matters.”
Heritage (25-3) was on a 17-game winning streak themselves, and they got a good effort from senior pitcher Delia Scott (seven hits, three strikeouts, no earned runs), but they just didn’t have an answer for May.
“I’m proud of my girls,” Rivers remarked. “I thought we played well and our pitcher pitched a good game. It came down to that one pitch.”
The win by Foothill helped erase the memory of a duplicate 2-0 score in the 2018 D1 title game, only Foothill was on the short end against Amador Valley after current Northwestern star pitcher Danielle Williams was the one that went deep at the plate and handcuffed the Falcons from the circle.
“We forgot about that one,” said a grinning junior catcher Courtney Beaudin, who recently received an offer from Cal. “This year we had a group of girls that never gave up and would just grind every day.”
Like Sweeney the girls knew nothing about making NCS history or the 28-0 mark, and May pretty much summed up what most high school student-athletes would say about it.
“We try to focus on competing and didn’t think about the winning streak, and it’s just like awesome going 28-0 and setting the record, but we just wanted to have fun.”