With the final game of the season over a week in the rearview mirror now, we take a look back at the North Coast Section softball playoffs, and the path that each team took to the title, while highlighting some great individual performances and thrilling games.
From the start of the year, the talk centered on a Foothill versus Heritage title game, especially after the teams had met in each of the previous three semifinals and both returned the majority of their rosters, including their starting pitchers.
That talk came to fruition, as Nicole May stayed dominant in the circle for Foothill and Delia Scott did the same for Heritage, and both teams powered past each opponent on a march to the title game. The semifinals were especially indicative of the gap between these two teams and the rest of the field this season, as Foothill routed Amador Valley, 11-1, and Heritage cruised past California, 10-0. Both games featured the power of each lineup, as Ellen Ebbers slugged a three-run home run for Foothill in its semifinal win, while Xiara Diaz homered twice and Tianna Bell added another for Heritage in its semifinal victory.
The championship game lived up to billing, with May dominant in the circle, striking out 13, while Scott kept the Foothill offense largely off-balance. The game ultimately came down to one swing, with two outs and after a Falcon runner had reached on an error. After fouling off a couple pitches, May drove a 1-2 riseball on the outside part of the plate over the right-center fence for a two-run shot, the only two runs in a 2-0 Foothill win, a victory which capped a historic 28-0 campaign for coach Matt Sweeney and his girls, the first team ever from the NCS to post such a mark.
While those two teams were certainly the dominant pair, other teams and individuals also made their mark. Napa and Clayton Valley locked horns in a first-round game which featured two of the top freshmen in Northern California – Napa’s Caity Newburn and Clayton Valley’s Jordan Woolery. Both players lived up to billing with home runs, but it was Newburn’s Grizzlies which emerged with a football-like victory, winning 23-13.
The bracket also featured one of the biggest upsets of the playoffs, when a sub-.500 12-seed Dublin team knocked off five-seed Castro Valley, 2-1.
The seeding for this bracket went out the window in the quarterfinals, when eight-seed Bishop O’Dowd and seven-seed Antioch eliminated the top two seeds. Those teams would wind up reaching the title game, where O’Dowd used a seven-run outburst in the top of the seventh inning to down the Panthers, 8-2.
O’Dowd pitcher Elizabeth Avery was dominant during the post-season, striking out 19 in a two-hit shutout over Windsor to start the playoffs, and then striking out 11 each in the last two games.
Antioch, meanwhile, lived dangerously to reach the section final, beating American Canyon in 10 innings to start the playoffs, then scoring twice in the top of the seventh inning against Benicia for a 4-3 victory. Haley Painter and Bailee Reed drove in two runs each during the win over Benicia.
The top offensive performance in the bracket came from Newark Memorial, facing a San Marin team in the quarterfinals that was missing standout Madison Papenhausen. The Cougars slugged five home runs in the 19-8 victory, with junior Marissa Alvarez driving in five runs. They were held to just one run by Avery during a semifinal loss to Bishop O’Dowd, however.
With its title, Bishop O’Dowd moves up to Division I in 2020, based on the NCS competitive equity bylaws.
Simply put, there was no stopping top-seed Marin Catholic in this bracket, especially not with Annabel Teperson in the circle and Julia Scardina at the plate.
Scardina was walked in all three of her at-bats during a 11-1 quarterfinal win over Terra Linda, slugged a home run to go with two doubles during a 10-0 semifinal win over St. Joseph Notre Dame and then homered and was walked twice during a 3-1 title game victory over Sonoma Valley, which probably wished they had just walked her all three times.
Meanwhile, Teperson struck out a combined 34 batters in the Wildcats’ three playoff games and allowed just three hits in the championship game.
Sonoma Valley was nearly as dominant while reaching the title game, routing Moreau Catholic 10-0 in the semifinals behind two home runs and four RBIs from junior Ally Alcayaga, and a one-hit, nine-strikeout performance in the circle from Kennedy Midgley.
McKinleyville routed St. Patrick-St. Vincent 11-1 in the championship game, and allowed just two runs in three games to storm to the section title.
St. Patrick-St. Vincent, meanwhile, accumulated 37 runs in its first three victories before getting stymied by the Panthers in the championship.
Hoopa Valley scored single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to knock off St. Vincent de Paul in the title game, 4-3, after the top-seeded Mustangs took down California School for the Deaf and Clear Lake in their first two games.
South Fork stormed past Emery and Laytonville to capture the section title, winning 18-0 in the championship.