It was apparent early on the Live Oak High softball team was the premier squad in the Blossom Valley League’s Santa Teresa Division this season. Live Oak won its first eight league games in dominating fashion, including victories by 10, 11, 12, 15 and 16 runs.
However, the Acorns’ latest win—11-9 over Lincoln on May 13—gave coach Sarah Porras plenty of ammunition to tell the players there was still plenty of things they could improve on, namely defense. Against Lincoln, the Acorns committed five errors that led to five unearned runs for starter Maya Lamar and Bella Altamirano, who went the final two.
“We have some work to do,” Porras said. “We need to support our pitchers. The pitchers are doing a great job, but we have to support them defensively because we can hit the ball and get around the bases pretty well. But we have to be able to play defense.”
The Acorns finished with 14 hits, none more impressive than Emma Courtney’s home run to lead off the top of the sixth. The stadium at Lincoln High has a 25-foot-plus tall fence in left field, the high school softball version of the Green Monster at Boston’s Fenway Park. Courtney’s moon shot highlighted a huge day that included two doubles and a single.
“Emma is amazing and her batting average is still outstanding, but for her (high standards) I think she’s been struggling a little bit lately in that she hasn’t been getting the contact she wants in her at-bats,” Porras said. “So for her to come out today and hit the ball as hard as she did all day and especially to hit that home run is amazing. That was great to see.”
Jasmine Mixco had three hits and Alexis Elizondo and Dre DeJesus had two hits each for the Acorns, who have a sophomore-dominated roster and are set up for a nice run of success. Even though Live Oak committed five errors, third baseman Molly Newquist and second baseman Adriana Johnson made some nice defensive plays.
In the bottom of the third inning, Johnson made a diving grab on a grounder up the middle before throwing the runner out from her knees.
“Adriana has been holding it down for us on defense,” Porras said. “She made that little sliding knee play and helped turn a double play (in another inning). She was definitely a strength on defense against Lincoln.”
After Courtney’s home run, Makenna Campbell and Hailey Stegall followed later in the inning with run-scoring groundouts, which proved to be the difference in the final margin because Lincoln had a five-run uprising in the bottom of the sixth. Porras was able to schedule a non-league game with Christopher on Friday in what will prove to be the team’s toughest test yet.
“When coach Porras told us we’re playing Christopher, I examined around the room and everybody had a face of eagerness,” DeJesus said. “They’re ready to go after it, and that’s what I love about these girls. Christopher is a Class A team, but everyone had the mindset to go straight at them. The competition we see versus Christopher is definitely what we will see in CCS, and we need to get used to it. I’m excited to play them.”
Sophomores make up over half the Live Oak roster, and DeJesus has grown up with most of them either playing on the same rec ball team or playing against them on different club programs. More than just talent and hard work, DeJesus said a positive attitude and play for each other mindset has powered this year’s Live Oak squad. In fact, she said it was those two factors that made the difference against Lincoln.
“Everyone kept their heads in the game, and we never got down on ourselves,” DeJesus said. “I think that’s why we’ve been so competitive this season, is because of the vibe we bring into the dugout and positive mindset. We haven’t had one game this season where the dugout wasn’t on fire. Even if we make an out, everyone comes back to the dugout and cheers for their teammates. The excitement we have for each other is unbelievable.”
DeJesus had her freshman 2020 season cancelled a week in, and though she was downcast, it put things in perspective when she saw senior Maddie More lose the final year of her high school sports career.
“She was one of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever met,” DeJesus said. “I was really bummed and felt bad for her. You appreciate the game more. This year we were obviously really excited to come back. I know we hit our first practice really hard and everyone was eager to get back at it. I’m glad we’re getting in this season for the two seniors (Courtney and Newquist) on our team.”
DeJesus is a gap to gap hitter, able to smash balls to all parts of the field. She had three doubles and five RBI in a game against Oak Grove earlier this season, one that she counts as her best. She marveled at Courtney’s home run and the trajectory it needed to get over the fence at Lincoln.
“Man, that was a shot,” she said.
DeJesus was relegated to designated player only status early in the season due to a shoulder injury. However, she has since healed and is back playing shortstop. Whatever happens the rest of the way, DeJesus is basking in the experience of being able to play the sport she loves with numerous friends.
“I’m so blessed to have this kind of experience because not too many people grow up with great softball players who are studs and bring great heart to a team,” she said. “I’m truly blessed to be able to make memories with every single one of them.”