Seniors Taliyah Miles and Maci Fines lead the way as Sheldon of Sacramento softball team blanks Tracy 6-0 to win third straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I title and stamp itself as the final No. 1 team for Northern California. It’s also the eighth overall crown for SJS Hall of Fame head coach Mary Jo Truesdale.
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Maci Fines collected the 200th hit of her high school career on a bunt in the first inning for Sheldon of Sacramento during Friday’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship against Tracy. She got No. 201 on a booming homer in her next at-bat with a runner on base to plate the first two runs of the game.
“No, it never gets tiring winning these titles,” Truesdale said. “It’s exciting for each group in its own way. It’s always a highlight. And doing this for the first time three times in a row is very special. Just the work they put in was special. They worked so hard for this.”
Sheldon entered the game at No. 8 in the Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20 and also was the highest-ranked team in the state from Northern California. The Huskies finished 30-2 and will move up at least one spot in next week’s state rankings and won’t drop behind any other NorCal team in the final rankings no matter what happens over the final two weekends of the season.
The Bulldogs, needing to win twice on Friday to deny the Huskies a section title, still ended the most successful season in school history. They won in the section semifinals over Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills, then lost to Sheldon 4-2 earlier this week and then earned another title shot against the Huskies by defeating River City of West Sacramento. Tracy was No. 10 in the state in the most recent rankings and ended 27-4.
When the season began, Fines was focused on breaking the Sheldon school record of 179 hits set several years ago by Danielle Henderson, who later starred at Cal. Once she got past that, she knew she had a chance to reach 200. She didn’t know until told on Friday that only approximately 15 others in state history have ever gone past 200 or more career hits. Another who did it this season was Livy Schiele from Bishop’s of La Jolla.
“A lot of others in my family paved the way for this to happen,” said Fines, who will play next season on scholarship at UC Santa Barbara and was joined in celebration by older sister Jordan, currently playing at Cal. “I was definitely shooting for 200 after (the school record).”
It’s going to take some research to see exactly where Fines will end up on the all-time state list, but it’s known that the section record of 227 was set in 1993 by Shelby Cromer from Lincoln of Stockton and that the state record of 247 was set two years ago by Zoe Casas from Aquinas of San Bernardino.
Her two-run homer in the bottom of the third gave Sheldon a 2-0 lead and came after Miles had struck out the side. Tracy, however, threatened in both the top of the first and top of the second with runner’s in scoring position but did not get the big hit.
“I’ve actually never a home run out of the park before, at least not in the playoffs,” Fines said. “The batter before me told me to look inside and that’s what I did.”
The Bulldogs also had two hits in the top of the fourth in an attempt to answer Fines’ home run. But with runners at first and third and one out, Miles struck out Lyndsey Widner and then got Emily Yanke on a pop-up to third base. Mikayla Coelho, who is headed to Cal, came through with one of those hits and completed an outstanding career at Tracy.
“I love it pitching in those situations,” said Miles, who will play next at Delaware State and also was the winning pitcher when the Huskies captured last year’s D1 crown. “If you don’t, what’s the point of the game. I felt I was finding the weaknesses in some of their swings as I faced them more and more times.”
After that fourth inning threat was halted, Sheldon added on to its lead in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by Shelbie Caro that scored Shea Moreno.
The Bulldogs prevented a fourth run from scoring in the fifth on a play at the plate, but in the sixth with Coelho pitching instead of starter Karina Faasisila, Miles helped her own cause with an RBI double that was quickly followed by a two-run homer by Maddi Ayers. At that point, the only question was the final margin.
“I always wanted to be the first to three-peat and I know it meant a lot to coach,” Miles said. “Of all the players and teams that have won so much here, nobody else has done that. It means a lot.”
And what did Truesdale think about how her two leading seniors did in their final game representing the program?
“She’s a great hitter and not just a bunter,” the coach said of Fines. “She went out there today and made a statement. She’s one of the best players we’ve ever had at Sheldon.”
“She battled like a warrior,” the coach said of Miles. “She went out there and pulled out everything she had.”