The Live Oak and Sobrato softball teams are on track to have solid seasons once again.
The crosstown rivals met for their only regular-season contest this season on March 16, with the Bulldogs prevailing, 8-7. The teams are in different divisions this year, with the Acorns in the Blossom Valley Athletic League’s A-league Mount Hamilton and Sobrato in the B-league Santa Teresa East.
So, whenever the two teams play, it’s always a spirited affair and their latest game came down to the wire. Tied 7-7 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Sunny Fernandez reached on an error and Raylene Cruz delivered a perfectly executed bunt single.
Jordan Bouton’s sacrifice-bunt advanced runners to second and third base, and Leah Grifall followed with a grounder that resulted in a Live Oak error, allowing Fernandez to score the game-winning run.
“A rivalry win does the job,” Bulldogs coach Dave Bauer said. “It’s always fun to play against Live Oak and we have a ton of respect for them. Even when we were up, we knew they were going to come back. So it’s a great team win and I’m just really happy for the girls and Sobrato.”
Grifall hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning, part of a four-run frame. The standout senior catcher is back at full strength after tearing both her ACL and MCL in her sophomore year, Bauer said.
“Just a great all-around game from Leah,” Bauer said. “We’re looking for big things from her this season.”
Live Oak’s pitching will go a long way in determining how it fares this season in the ultra-competitive Mount Hamilton Division. The Acorns have three capable starters in returning seniors Maya Lamar and Bella Altamirano along with freshman Hailey Nguyen.
There are plenty of potent hitting teams in the Mount Hamilton so the trio need to be pinpoint with their pitches. However, Live Oak coach Sarah Porras said the approach of the batters will be equally vital if the team expects to have another solid season in the A league.
“I’m excited for this year, and I’m hoping the girls can be a little more consistent with their hitting,” Porras said. “Everyone wants to go up and be a big hitter. It feels good to try to take one deep, but I think one of our assets is we’ve got speed on our team, girls who can bunt, slap, and do all those things. So doing everything to get runners on base is something that will be big for us. We’re looking for that on-base percentage to be high. That will make us successful.”
In leadoff hitter and center fielder Jasmine Mixco, the Acorns have a player who gets on base and is always a threat to swipe a bag once she’s on. The senior’s younger sister, freshman Olivia Mixco, has been hitting in the No. 2 spot and playing left field.
Live Oak has another set of sisters on the team in senior Jordan Lara and junior Hannah Lara.
“It’s exciting to have a lot of sisters on the team,” Porras said. “It’s been fun and I think it’s going to be an exciting season. We’ve got to hit, though, to make it fun.”
The Acorns have plenty of returners including Hailey Stegall, Dre DeJesus, Bela Panuco, Clara Perez and Alexis Elizondo mixed in with young talent including four talented freshmen. Meanwhile, Sobrato also has a talented roster that Bauer thinks should contend or win a league championship.
Freshman Sam Zimmerman, who earned the win against Live Oak, along with returning sophomore starter Zoe Rodriguez form a nice 1-2 punch in the circle. The day before the Live Oak game, Rodriguez threw a complete game shutout against Prospect.
“We think very highly of Sam and Zoe,” Bauer said. “Sam has a lot of good experience and can compete with an A division team like Live Oak. She’s a horse and can pitch the full seven, eight innings, whatever it takes. Zoe can also go the distance so we’ll be leaning on both of those two pitchers and it’s exciting they’re both here for the next three, four years.”
Fernandez, Cruz and Grifall had two hits each against Live Oak and Makayla Heffernan reached base three times, via a single and two walks. Similar to Live Oak, the Bulldogs have a roster of experienced returners combined with young talent.
Outside of the players already mentioned, the team has a roster that includes senior first baseman Sofia Ferrante, junior left fielder Stella Ferrante, sophomore Brooklyn Amato, senior Brianna Jimenez, senior Alexis Bueno, senior Annah Vasquez and sophomore Alyssa Nava.
“Honestly, we’ve got 14 girls on the roster and all 14 can start,” Bauer said. “We’ve been rotating just that way every game so far where girls are getting in their time and they all contribute.”
Bauer added he loves this year’s team for its camaraderie and approach.
“It’s just a good overall balance and good vibe,” he said. “Good chemistry, no drama, just how we like it. They’re perfect coaches’ players without a doubt.”