Through the first two rounds in the Central Coast Section Division IV playoffs, it’s apparent the Live Oak High softball team is vastly underseeded in terms of division placement.
The No. 2 seed Acorns have played just one inning above the minimum amount possible after a 16-1, four-inning mercy-rule victory over No. 3 Piedmont Hills Thursday at Capuchino High in San Bruno.
Live Oak (12-11), which plays No. 8 Pacific Grove for the championship at 10am Saturday at San Jose City College, beat Menlo-Atherton 16-0 in the minimum three innings in the opening quarterfinal round.
While the Acorns played in the ultra-competitive Blossom Valley Athletic League Mount Hamilton Division this season, the three teams they will have faced in the playoffs are all B-league teams: Menlo-Atherton from the Peninsula Athletic League’s Ocean Division, Piedmont Hills of the BVAL’s Santa Teresa West Division and Pacific Grove, the second-place finisher from the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Mission Division.
Meanwhile, Live Oak finished 5-9 and seventh out of the eight-team Mount Hamilton. However, the Acorns’ record was a bit misleading in that they scored 51 runs in league play and allowed 53, showing they were highly competitive but came up short against some top-notch teams.
“We kind of had our ups and downs throughout the season, and I think they’re really finding themselves in this postseason,” coach Sarah Porras said. “They are playing with a ton of heart and that’s all you ask for because we definitely have the talent and now they’re playing for each other.”
Live Oak has a rich softball tradition, winning CCS championships in 1987, 1996, 2001 and 2005, to go along with runner-up finishes in 1990 and 1997. In fact, Porras was a freshman player on that 2005 title team. Now, the Acorns look primed to win CCS again, 18 years after the last time they did it and before many of the current players on this year’s team were born.
“I tell the girls they can do it,” Porras said. “We weren’t the team that was supposed to do it, but anyone can. You just have to be better for seven innings and now they have the opportunity and it’s really awesome.”
Especially with freshman sensation Hailey Nguyen in the circle. Continuing her stellar season, Nguyen allowed three hits and struck out seven of the 16 batters she faced. Nguyen is averaging 10 strikeouts a game and has an arsenal of pitches at her disposal.
“Hailey has been dealing,” Porras said. “She’s definitely a game-changer and spark for us.”
Live Oak’s offense has been unstoppable in the playoffs, scoring 32 runs in seven innings. Against Piedmont Hills, the Acorns totaled 16 hits, including six doubles and one triple from Dre DeJesus.
Jasmine Mixco had four RBIs and was one of six players with two hits, including Olivia Mixco (two RBIs), DeJesus, Ava Chapman, Hailey Stegall and Bela Panuco. Jordan Lara drew two walks and Hannah Lara drove in two runs.
Panuco scored a game-high three runs and catcher Mara DiFrancesco highlighted the team’s stellar defense by gunning down two would-be base stealers.
Sobrato saw its fine season end in a 4-0 loss to Westmont Thursday at Saratoga High. The No. 2 seed Bulldogs, who finished 19-4, were slotted in the section’s second toughest playoff bracket behind the Open Division and comported themselves well, winning an instant classic in the opening quarterfinal round, a marathon 13-12, 11-inning decision over Wilcox.
But No. 3 seed Westmont, which tied for second in the Mount Hamilton, proved to be the Bulldogs’ foil. Sobrato did stay close for a while as the game was scoreless after three innings. However, the Westmont hitters started to get locked in and the Warriors scored a run in the fourth and three more in the fifth to pull away for the victory.
The Bulldogs had 20 hits vs. Wilcox but were limited to just five hits against Westmont, with two coming in the final inning. Four of their five hits came with two out and nobody on, including a triple from Jordan Bouton in the bottom of the sixth inning.
However, as was the case the entire game, Westmont pitcher Elise Roy stranded each Sobrato baserunner. In the Wilcox game, Leah Grifall had three hits and four RBIs, Sofia Ferrante went 4-for-6 with three RBIs and Raylene Cruz and Bouton each had three hits and drove in two runs apiece. Brooklyn Amato added three hits in the slugfest.
Thursday’s defeat ended one of the best seasons in program history, which included a perfect 8-0 mark to win the BVAL’s Santa Teresa Division championship. The cupboard is far from bare, though, as Sobrato started a sophomore, a junior and three freshmen, including ace pitcher Sam Zimmerman, in Thursday’s CCS playoff semifinal.