STOCKTON – It had been a week since Calaveras High School’s softball team played a game. Two rain delays moved back the playoff matchup between No. 2 Calaveras and No. 3 Casa Roble and head coach Mike Koepp was concerned that the time off might have done more harm than good for his Mother Lode League champion squad.
His team eased his concerns with a big 7-0 shutout over Casa Roble Wednesday night in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV softball playoffs at Arnaiz Softball Complex.
“I was absolutely worried,” Koepp said. “We’ve only played two games in two weeks. Earlier in the season, we played seven games in six days. But I have a lot of girls who put in a lot of reps both in season and out of season. They know what they need to do to be prepared.”
Last season, Calaveras played its first game of the double elimination tournament on the same field and lost to Rosemont 11-4. In that game, and the remainder of the postseason, Calaveras was without starting pitcher Bri Head, who missed the entire playoff run with a concussion. Now, one year later, Head is making up for lost time and threw a five-hit shutout.
“She was pitching really well,” senior catcher Alanda Cardon said of her senior hurler. “There were some calls that I thought should have gone our way and that was irritating. But, she was spot-on tonight.”
Head pitched a 1-2-3 inning in three of the seven frames and only saw four hitters in the other four innings. Head struck out three and didn’t issue any walks in a complete game victory.
“She hit her spots really well today,” Koepp said. “Her rise ball was up and her changeup was where it needed to be. She’s not a strikeout pitcher and she allowed her drop ball to work and got a lot of ground balls. That allows us to use our athleticism and softball smarts behind her.”
With Head taking care of business in the circle, all Calaveras had to do was put a run or two on the board. Calaveras was only able to score in one inning. However, in that one inning, all seven runs were scored. Even though Calaveras wasn’t able to plate any runners outside of the bottom of the second, all that matters to Koepp is the final score.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Koepp said. “As long as we are ahead at the end, that’s obviously our goal every time. I feel like out at-bats got a little stagnant there at the end and were swinging at some pitches we shouldn't have been swinging at. But, I don’t want to take away from one really good inning and we put a lot of good swings on the ball.”
Calaveras did all of its damage offensively in the bottom of the second and it started with a triple off the bat of junior MacKenna Steele. Head knocked in Steele with a soft bloop down the left field line for the first run of the game. With a runner at first, sophomore Angelina DeLeon crushed the ball over the right-center field wall for a two-run home run to give Calaveras a 3-0 lead.
“I was just wanting to see the ball and hit the ball,” DeLeon said of her second home run of the year. “I wasn’t really expecting that; I was just looking for a base hit. Off the bat, I knew that I had it and it felt pretty good to pick up my teammates and get some insurance runs.”
After the next two Calaveras batters were retired, senior Alexis Dawe and freshman Madison Clark recorded back-to-back singles. With two on and two out, Cardon smacked a double down the left field line and bounced off the wall to score Dawe and Clark. Cardon’s double gave her team a 5-0 lead. Junior Keelie Koepp then walked and Steele singled home Cardon and Koepp to cap Calaveras’ seven-run inning.
With a 7-0 lead, Head and her defense continued to frustrate Casa Roble. Calaveras’ defense threw out two runners at third and didn’t commit an error in the final six innings.
“My defense was great tonight,” Head said. “I give them a 9.9 out of 10.”
At the plate, Head went 2 for 3 with an RBI; Steele was 2 for 2 with a triple, two RBIs, a run scored and a walk; Clark went 1 for 4 with a run scored; Dawe went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored; Cardon had a double, two RBIs and scored a run; DeLeon went 1 for 2 with a home run, two RBIs, one run scored, one walk and one stolen base; and Keelie Koepp walked, stole a base and scored a run.
Calaveras now only needs to win two more games to clinch a section championship. However, that will require a victory over No. 1 Ripon, who beat No. 5 Liberty Ranch 5-1 Wednesday afternoon. That game will begin at 3 p.m., Thursday back at Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton. Calaveras and Ripon have faced once this year, with Ripon winning 10-9 in extra innings.
“Ripon can swing the bats pretty well,” Mike Koepp said. “We threw a different pitcher against them the first time we played them. I think it’s two evenly matched teams. I think our offense is better than theirs and we rely on that. If we play defense and we swing the bats like we should, I really like our chances.”
Should Calaveras knock off Ripon, it would play in the section championship game at 5 p.m., Friday. But if Calaveras should lose, it would turn around and face the winner of No. 3 Casa Roble and No. 5 Liberty Ranch at 5:15 p.m. Thursday, with the winner of that game facing Ripon for the section title.
“I know a lot of us weren’t satisfied the last time we played Ripon,” Cardon said. “We are going to come out stronger tomorrow and kick some butt.”