It’s a wrap for the amazing state record coaching career of Carlmont of Belmont’s Jim Liggett, who ends 41 years with 1,009 wins but not with a CIF Central Coast Section title since his girls fell on Saturday in the Division I section final to San Benito of Hollister. In the D2 final, NorCal No. 1 Pioneer of San Jose lost for the third straight season to Archbishop Mitty while Half Moon Bay made its entire town happy by taking the D3 crown.
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Since Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) won its first CIF Central Coast Section Division II championship in 1994, it’s almost perennial that the Monarchs have been in the title game, and this year was no different.
Second-seeded and state Top 20 bubble team Mitty (21-4) overcame a 3-0 third-inning deficit with two runs in the fifth and two in the sixth to beat crosstown No. 1 seed and state No. 7 Pioneer in the CIF Central Coast Section Division II title game on Saturday at PAL Stadium in San Jose.
With the victory, Mitty won its 14th CCS championship in the past 22 years and third straight with those three titles all coming against Pioneer.
Mitty will now just about assuredly come into the state rankings somewhere in the second 10 and Pioneer’s hopes as finishing as the top-ranked team in Northern California have been dashed.
It was the freshmen duo of starter Savanna Smith and Hannah Edwards that got it done and made head coach Joe Gron the third coach on the day to win a CCS title in the first season at the school.
After Smith gave up three runs and walked a batter to open the fourth inning, Gron brought in Edwards, and just like she did in the quarterfinals and in a 7-5 semifinal win against Leigh of San Jose, the solidly-built right-hander who mixes up her pitches but can throw in the low 60s shut down Pioneer and gave her team a chance to come back.
“My job is to come in, shut them down and get it done,” Edwards said.
Shut Pioneer down is exactly what Edwards did. She gave up a single to the first batter she faced, but retired the next three batters to end the inning. Edwards gave up singles in the fifth and sixth innings but in the bottom of the seventh she set the side down in order to complete a season in which not many thought Mitty would do as well as they have in the past after losing so many seniors, including both pitchers.
“Absolutely. No doubt in my mind. I had the utmost confidence Hannah would come in and compete, and both of these freshmen. What more can you ask for,” Gron remarked.
The winning rally came in the sixth with Mitty trailing 3-2. Rebecca Ortiz singled off Pioneer ace and UCLA-bound 2015 State Sophomore of the Year Holly Azevedo to open the inning and then advanced to third when Alyssa Valdez reached on an error.
Ortiz scored when she and Valdez executed a double steal to tie it at 3-3. Julia Lucas then drove her in with the winning run on a sacrifice fly to right field.
For top-seed Pioneer (25-3), Azevedo went all the way and took the loss while giving up four runs and six hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks. She finishes the season 24-3 with 323 strikeouts, but the three earned runs she gave up to Mitty almost equaled the four she gave up to everyone else combined. Of note is the first earned run Azevedo gave up this season was in a 3-2 win over state No. 12 Amador Valley (Pleasanton) in that team’s first game in a rain-delayed season.
As for Mitty, it was about a team that never quit despite going 0-2 at a rain-shortened Livermore Stampede tournament where the girls have recently been dominant.
“We’ve been fighting and scrapping all year long and this game was no different. The girls played their hearts out and Hannah was great. She gave her entire effort on every pitch today,” said Gron, who coached against both Mitty and Pioneer at Leigh (San Jose) before replacing current Mitty baseball coach Brian Yocke who took over this season for retired Monarchs’ legend Bill Hutton.
Like the teams Yocke coached, it looks like Gron has some very solid pitching going forward for the next three years so look for Mitty to be state ranked in next year’s preseason rankings.
SAN BENITO D1 TITLE
DENIES LIGGETT CELEBRATION
While Mitty has been dominant in CIF Central Coast Section Division II softball, San Benito (Hollister) has been just as and possibly more dominant recently in Division I.
In Saturday’s title game at PAL Stadium, top-seeded San Benito (26-3) battled back from a 5-1 second inning deficit to post an 11-6 CCS Division I championship game victory over Carlmont (Belmont).
For the Haybalers it was their second straight section title and 10th in the last 11 years.
The win by San Benito also denied outgoing Carlmont head coach Jim Liggett a ninth CCS championship and sent California’s all-time winningest softball coach into retirement with 1,009 career coaching victories in 41 years at the Scots helm.
“It would have been great to get one last title but I have no regrets. My girls fought hard and that’s all you can ask for,” Liggett said.
After falling behind early, San Benito scored one in the first, one in the second, one in the third and three in the fourth to take a 6-5 lead, however Carlmont fought back to tie it 6-6 in the in the top of the fifth before the Balers posted a two-spot in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead for good.
“Coming into the year, I didn’t want to change too much from the legacy of Coach (Scott) Smith who mentored me,” said first year San Benito head coach Andrew Barragan, who became the second of three first-year coaches to win a CCS softball title on Saturday.
“We had some speed this year so we were a little more aggressive on the bases,” continued Barragan, who coached baseball at San Benito the past six years before replacing Smith, the 2011 State Coach of the Year.
San Benito was already leading 8-6 when Sacramento State-bound senior Suzy Brookshire launched the day’s only home run, a towering solo blast that cleared the 230-foot sign by plenty and was estimated at around 275 feet. Fellow senior Callee Heen also had a big day at the plate with a single, two doubles and a run scored.
“Before the season started me and Callee talked about what we needed to bring to the table to grow our team and be there for each other,” Brookshire remarked.
Brookshire and Heen will be gone as will one other senior non-starter so don’t look for San Benito to disappear next season.
HALF MOON BAY WINS
SECOND CCS TITLE
It’s been a long time since Half Moon Bay has been able to celebrate a CIF Central Coast Section softball championship, but after a 9-2 Division III title-game victory over Notre Dame of Salinas, the folks on the coast are rejoicing in the school’s first section title in 28 years and second in school history.
In fact, the town of Half Moon Bay was so pleased with the performance of its girls that one of the City Council members came down on the field after the awards ceremony to tell the team they would be the Grand Marshalls of the annual Fourth of July parade.
“These girls are a special group that’s been playing together since they were seven years old. I’m just so proud of them,” said first-year Half Moon Bay head coach Claire Rietman-Grout, a Mercy-Burlingame graduate who played at Towson State.
Second-seeded Half Moon Bay (24-4) scored all the runs it would need in the bottom of the first when it answered the two-spot Notre Dame put up in the top of the inning with three runs of its own. The Cougars followed with four runs in the second inning and the two runs they plated in the third closed out the scoring.
Junior Ally Sarabia led the way for the Cougars after going 3-for- 4 with a triple, four RBIs and two runs scored. Senior Olivia Hedding had two hits and three RBIs, sophomore shortstop Lily Moffitt was 3-for-3 and scored three times, plus she played sparkling defense, freshman Marissa Terra had three hits and two RBIs, and senior Angela Brazil had two hits and scored twice.
“It’s amazing that our hitting came together like it did and in the championship game,” Sarabia remarked. “No team has come together and bonded together better than we have.”
Half Moon Bay also came into the game at No. 4 in the Cal-Hi Sports Division III state rankings. Since two teams higher could be playing each other next week, a No. 3 final ranking is just about guaranteed and there’s a chance the Cougars could finish even higher.
Notre Dame (19-9- 1) was going for its 16th CIFCCS title and fourth straight but the Spirits just could not match the offensive output of Half Moon Bay.
The only big hit for Notre Dame was a first inning RBI triple by Spencer Hyosaka.
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