Host school Livermore brings home the title for only the second time in the 21-year history of the Livermore Stampede (one of the state’s top softball tournaments) and the first time since 2000. There were some state-ranked teams in the field, too.
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The big question coming into the 21st annual Livermore Stampede was if any of the CIF North Coast Section teams playing in the field could unseat the defending CIF Central Coast Section Division II champion Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) team that was looking for its third straight tourney title and fifth Stampede championship in the last seven years of the Northern California softball showcase.
Heritage of Brentwood took care of Mitty (ranked No. 7 in last week’s Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20) in the opener of Pool C play with a 5-1 victory that would send Mitty to the pecking order’s No. 2 Stampede Flight, while Heritage would go on to the Championship Flight where the Patriot girls looked to be favorites along with Alhambra of Martinez. Upstart Monte Vista (Danville) and host Livermore filled out the flight.
The problem with this whole scenario is someone forgot to tell the top flight’s field about Livermore and one Cowgirl in particular, pitcher and slugger Samantha Whalen.
The Stampede most often is about pitching, and the 2015 version really wasn’t any different.
In one of the gutsiest performances in recent history, Whalen pitched out of several jams to toss a six-hitter with eight strikeouts and two walks to lead Livermore to a 5-3 victory over Heritage-Brentwood in Saturday night’s championship game.
Two of the runs, two hits and a walk came in the bottom of the seventh with hard-hitting Heritage trying to mount a last ditch effort after entering the inning with a 5-1 deficit.
At the plate, Whalen also was 2-for-4 with a double and two knocked in against Heritage. Her single in the top of the seventh inning that drove in Alyssa Ramirez and Hannah Bennett also proved to be the game winning RBIs.
For the Stampede, Whalen went 4-1 with her only loss coming in a 1-0 setback to Castro Valley.
Possibly her best performance was in the semifinals where she pitched Livermore (9-2) to a 5-1 victory over Monte Vista. After giving up a leadoff home run to Cal-bound Lindsay Rood, Whalen knuckled down and only gave up one more hit over seven innings.
In a 3-1 win over Freedom (Oakley), Whalen pitched a three-hitter. Against Dougherty Valley of San Ramon, she tossed another three-hitter in a 5-0 victory.
As a batter in the five games, Whalen was 7-for-14 with a home run, two doubles, six RBIs, and although she was replaced by a courtesy runner except for the home run, she accounted for four runs scored.
It was a performance by Whalen that not only had local Stampede faithful singing the old cowboy song “yippee yi yo kayah” but earned the Chapman College-bound senior the Most Valuable Player award.
“We finished second in my freshman year and second again to Mitty in my sophomore year, so we’ve been real close,” Whalen said. “To go out as a senior like this with a bang is really important for us as a team and the Livermore community. Plus, it gives us gives us a boost and a lot of confidence going into the East Bay Athletic League.”
For first year head coach Gary Vignola, it was a significant accomplishment to begin his tenure at the Livermore helm.
“Personally it feels great but it’s about the girls,” Vignola remarked. “This team has a lot of heart and no quit. It’s easy to coach girls of this caliber. And for Sam (Whalen) it was a phenomenal performance pitching and hitting.”
The championship title for Livermore was only the second in the 21-year history of the Stampede for the host school and the first since 2000 when legendary head coach and Stampede founder Charlie Foscalina led the Cowgirls to victory.
Another girl that played very well for Livermore and was named all-tournament was freshman shortstop Madison Kahwaty. Look for her to make some real noise over the next four years.
In the title-game win over Heritage, Kahwaty had a hit and scored a run. For the five games, the Livermore leadoff hitter was 6-for-14 with two doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored.
Heritage (11-2) was led by Tennessee State-bound first-sacker and all-tournament selection Kim Trice. She was 2-for-4 with an RBI against Livermore.
The Patriots can now thank Livermore for both of their losses after a 10-7 defeat at the Queen of the Mountain tournament three weeks ago.
Alhambra (Martinez) 9, Monte Vista (Danville) 3
After losing 9-8 to Heritage in the semifinals on a walk-off home run by the Patriots’ Alyssa Kirk, Alhambra (9-3) rebounded to win the third-place game. Sophomore Regan Silva had two hits, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 6, Freedom (Oakley) 0
Archbishop Mitty (14-3) lost its first game in this year’s Stampede 5-1 to Heritage, and then rebounded to win its next four, including breezing past Freedom to take fifth place.
In the Freedom win, all-tournament selection and Cal-bound Danielle Bowers was 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored. West Point-bound Maddie Kim also homered and finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a run scored.
“Our girls could have folded after the Heritage loss but they rebounded and held it together and I’m proud of the way they finished,” said Mitty head coach Brian Yocke, who will leave the Monarchs’ softball helm after this season to replace Mitty legendary baseball head coach Bill Hutton (who is retiring).
Previously unbeaten Benicia also was state-ranked entering the Stampede. In this tourney, however, unlike the Victory tourney when the Panthers (13-3) were unbeaten, the state No. 14 team hit the skids in losses to Granada of Livermore, Monte Vista and Castro Valley.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend