The Live Oak softball team entered Tuesday’s Central Coast Section Division I playoff quarterfinal having lost two of its previous three games, including an 11-1 mercy-rule defeat to league rival Westmont.
Clearly, the minor skid did nothing to deter the No. 7 seed Acorns from producing a gem of a performance in a 11-2 win over No. 2 Cupertino. Live Oak and Westmont will play for a third time on Wednesday in the semifinals for the right to advance to the championship game. The Acorns beat Westmont 10-5 on April 28 before losing the rematch on May 25.
“I think we’re two evenly matched teams and if we bring the confidence that we brought today, it’ll be a really good game,” Acorns coach Sarah Porras said. “The last game versus Westmont with us being a really young team, I think the nerves got to us and we kind of crumbled under the pressure. But we’ve learned from that and today them coming out to play the way they did shows they’ve really grown from that game. I’m so happy with them honestly because of the confidence they showed. That is the thing I’m most proud of because being such a young team, it can be hard to build that confidence.”
The state of confidence seemed to permeate the Acorns, who finished with 14 hits and received a stellar performance in the circle from Maddie Torres, who allowed only five hits and two runs in five innings. Utilizing a fastball and changeup, Torres was in complete control the entire way.
“Maddie throws really hard and has been working on her command,” Porras said. “We felt she was ready for it and she brought it today. Her changeup was dirty today. They were swinging at it, she was hitting her locations and that’s what she’s been working on. For sure it was her best performance of the season.”
This marked Live Oak’s first CCS playoff win since Porras took over as coach seven years ago. Leadoff hitter Jasmine Mixco went 4 for 5 and scored three times. Speedy and a threat to swipe a bag on a moment’s notice, Mixco’s huge day portended something favorable for the Acorns.
“When Jasmine is hot, we’re hot,” Porras said. “She’s definitely a firecracker that starts it for our team. When the girls see her get on, they know it’s about to go down. She’s an aggressive baserunner and we have speed right behind her with Emma (Courtney), so it puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”
Courtney reached base in all five of her plate appearances, compiling three singles, a walk and a hit by pitch. Alexis Elizondo had a two-run double and drove in another run with a safety squeeze that made it 4-0 in the top of the fourth inning. The play epitomized Live Oak’s ability to play the small-ball game. The Acorns finished with five bunt singles and complemented that with a home run from Hailey Stegall, who just completed her freshman year.
“We wanted to bunt, slap hit and do whatever it took to get those runners on, over and in, and that’s what we did,” Porras said.
Stegall was an on-base machine, walking twice, singling, reaching on an error and scoring three times. But it was her home run to left field that brought all of her teammates out of the dugout to celebrate. And this time, the umpires didn’t wave the team back to the dugout as they did when Courtney hit a bomb for a home run at Lincoln High.
“Hailey just posted a picture on her travel team where she hit a home run for them, so that was pretty awesome she came out today and did it again,” Porras said.
Molly Newquist made three spectacular plays at third base, preventing at least a couple of runs from scoring and squelching any potential Cupertino rallies. Newquist took part in graduation ceremonies last week and has been a key factor in the team’s success.
“It’s really good to see her lead by example,” Porras said. “She made some tough plays that really helped us out.”
Shortstop Dre DeJesus also made a nice play in the bottom of the third, snagging a liner before throwing to first base to double off a Cupertino baserunner. Bella Altamirano pitched the sixth and Mixco the seventh to close things out. Young but talented, the Acorns put together one of their best games of the season at the most opportune time—in the postseason.
“It’s our first victory in the playoffs in seven years, so it’s really exciting,” Porras said. “We’re going to have everyone ready and do whatever it takes to get it done (against Westmont). I’m just really proud of the girls because with the exception of the Christopher game, they haven’t had the chance to prove themselves. And they didn’t have last season to build their confidence, but they’re doing it now.”