The Live Oak High softball team’s season came to an end in a Central Coast Section Division III playoff semifinal loss to Salinas High May 24 at the Salinas Sports Complex. The Acorns finished the season 12-13 after losing to Salinas High for the third time in as many meetings.
Despite the defeat, Live Oak senior catcher Deja Jimenez felt proud of the team’s effort and performance. Jimenez was a stalwart with the program, making the varsity team as a freshman. She was ultra reliable for her defense and while her offensive numbers weren’t eye-popping, she got the job done when it came to advancing runners via sacrifice-bunts or hits.
“I try to have productive at-bats and even have my outs be productive,” she said. “If I’m batting second, my job is to advance the runner or get on no matter what.”
That’s exactly what Jimenez did in an opening round rout of St. Francis of Watsonville. The Acorns won 14-3, and even though Jimenez didn’t have a huge day, going 1-for-5, she accomplished her goal of putting the ball in play and driving in runs.
Live Oak finished with 15 hits, with Jazmine Mixco, Alexis Elizondo, Andrea Dejesus, and Hannah Lara all having multi-hit games. Mixco went 3-for-4 as the Acorns broke the game open after the score was 3-3 entering the top of the fourth inning.
That’s when Aida Martins hit a two-run single to start an 11-run uprising spread out over the fourth and fifth innings. Pitcher Maya Lamar went the full five innings, allowing eight hits and three runs. Mixco started the game off with a hit before advancing a base on Jimenez’s sacrifice-bunt.
Dejesus had a bases-loaded walk to drive in the team’s first run.
“That really started off the mojo,” Jimenez said. “Collectively as a team we all did the job and our big hitters even laid down some bunts. We played the small-ball game even with our big hitters and everyone took advantage of any opportunity we got. That really allowed it to build up from there.”
Jimenez said she was happy the team got promoted back up to the Blossom Valley League’s top Mount Hamilton Division for this season. The Acorns went 6-8 in division play, tied for fourth place. Although they had their ups and downs, the team was excited to be back in the A division.
The Acorns are poised to move up in the Mount Hamilton next year, as the majority of their starters will return.
“Overall, we really wanted to be back up in the A league,” said Jimenez, who is expected to play at San Jose City College next year. The Jaguars are a California community college power and advanced to the State Final Eight this season. “We knew we had the potential and I’m glad we got to compete in the A league in my senior year.”
Live Oak had one of the best teams in the state on the ropes and fighting for their playoff lives. But the Acorns couldn’t finish, losing in heartbreaking fashion, 5-4, to St. Francis in a CCS Division I playoff opener May 21 in Mountain View.
UCLA-commit Landon Stump had a no-hitter through five innings before being taken out with two outs in the bottom of the sixth as he was about to reach the maximum pitch count allowed for a single start. The top-seed Lancers (27-4) rallied for five runs in the frame before closing things out in the top of the seventh.
The loss prevented No. 8 seed Live Oak (18-9) from pulling off what would’ve been a seminal moment for the program as the top West Catholic League schools like St. Francis routinely dominate the section’s top playoff division every year.
But with Stump on the mound—he of the mid-90 mph fastball—the Acorns knew they had more than a puncher’s chance of winning. For most of the game, that’s exactly what it looked like was going to happen. A two-out, check-swing infield single from Justin Kester-Johnson followed by a run-scoring single from Ethan Lopez made it 2-0 in the top of the third inning.
An inning later, Kester-Johnson ripped an RBI double to make it 3-0. Michael Volkman followed with a run-scoring single to give Live Oak a 4-0 lead. After Stump got out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom half, St. Francis wouldn’t be denied in the pivotal sixth inning.
The Lancers put two runners on with two outs when Stump had to be taken out. Stump was responsible for the two baserunners that got on and wound up allowing two runs over 5 ⅔ innings while striking out six.
St. Francis scored five runs on two hits, a hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and a Live Oak infield error which led to the fifth run. Live Oak had another terrific season, finishing 18-9 and going 11-3 to repeat as BVAL Mount Hamilton Division champions for the first time in school history.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]