Coming full circle, Live Oak softball CCS champs again

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Freshman sensation pitcher Hailey Nguyen struck out 11 and allowed just an infield single in leading Live Oak to a 4-0 win over Pacific Grove in the CCS Division IV championship game May 27 at San Jose City College. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Led by another sensational pitching performance from freshman Hailey Nguyen and potent hitting from Dre DeJesus and Ava Chapman, the Live Oak High softball team proved to be unstoppable in winning the Central Coast Section Division IV playoff championship May 27 at San Jose City College. 

The Acorns’ 4-0 win over Pacific Grove was the program’s first section title since 2005, when current coach Sarah Porras was a freshman starting second baseman. That 2005 team won the Division I title in heart-stopping fashion, scoring three runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to stun North Salinas, 5-4. 

In a neat twist, then-Live Oak coaches Barry McDonnell and Debbie Adamo were in the stands at San Jose City College to watch their former player guide the team to its latest CCS championship. 

Porras already was welling up with tears as her 5-year-old daughter joined her on the field for the awards ceremony. So, from being a player on a title winning team to a mom and now coaching her alma mater to victory, the journey has been extraordinarily heartfelt. 

“That was really cool my two coaches from that year were here to watch the game,” Porras said. “That was really special they got to see it and come full circle. I talked to the girls all the time about my experience with winning a title and now they have that experience.”

The Acorns (13-11) received the top seed in the CIF NorCal Regional Division V playoff bracket and have an opening-round bye. They play host to the Laytonville-Los Molinos winner June 1 at 4pm. A win there and Live Oak would play for the championship two days later.   

The Acorns took their share of lumps playing in the tough Blossom Valley Athletic League Mount Hamilton Division, but it has prepared them for this postseason run. Nguyen was dynamite again, throwing six innings of shutout ball. 

She allowed just one hit, an infield hit by the speedy lefty leadoff hitter Ella Lee, who didn’t beat the throw to first base by much with one out in the top of the sixth inning. However, Nguyen induced back-to-back popouts to slam the door shut. The right-hander had 11 strikeouts and walked just one in a sterling performance. 

“Hailey has got nerves of steel,” Porras said. 

Said Nguyen: “I’ve worked my way to get through the nervousness and I love to be under pressure because I know it’s important to me.”

When asked to describe her mindset and approach to the game, Nguyen relied on her experience playing competitive travel ball as key. 

“I was thinking let my defense work and I’ve got this,” she said. “My team has my back and I’ve practiced enough to know I can do this. … It’s been 18 years or something [since the last CCS title], and I’m glad I was one of the players that made this happen.”

Utilizing an assortment of fastballs, screwballs, curveballs, riseballs with some changeups mixed in, Nguyen kept the Breakers off-balance to spearhead the team to victory. 

Live Oak ran roughshod to reach the final, beating two opponents by a combined margin of 32-1. No, that’s not a typo. Even though Pacific Grove was more formidable, the Acorns took command with a three-run third inning.

Nguyen hit a leadoff single and Jordan Lara drew a walk. After a force-out at third base, Olivia Mixco walked to load the bases. DeJesus followed with a two-run double and Chapman—another freshman—roped a run-scoring double to cap the mini uprising. 

Chapman drove in the team’s final run with a sixth inning sacrifice-fly to score DeJesus, who reached on a triple. Porras was particularly happy for senior stalwarts like DeJesus, Maya Lamar and Jasmine Mixco—just to name a few—who have been impact players since they were freshmen. 

“All of the seniors have been a huge part of this,” Porras said. “Most of them are four-year varsity athletes on our team and have been an integral part in what we do. So, I’m happy we can send them out in fashion. … The girls just dove in head first and went after it.”

The Live Oak softball players are all smiles after winning the team’s first CCS title in 18 years. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
The Live Oak softball team celebrates the final out in its 4-0 win over Pacific Grove. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.