Amador’s Wild Ride Ends In 13-11 Win

Amador Valley softball players were obviously quite happy after the type of game they won on Saturday that gave them their first-ever CIF NorCal D1 championship. Photo: Mark Tennis.

There are No. 8 seeds that have gone on a shocking series of wins in various playoff brackets over the years, and then there’s what has happened over the last week for the Amador Valley of Pleasanton softball team. The Dons won the CIF NorCal D1 title on Saturday after beginning their week with a win over state/national No. 1 St. Francis of Mountain View. They also did it with a comeback of epic proportions by a 13-11 score in nine innings over Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills.

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There have been a lot better teams in the long and successful history of the Amador Valley High of Pleasanton softball program than the one that played in the 2024 season.

There was the 27-0 squad in 2014 that won the CIF North Coast Section D1 championship that was No. 2 in the final state rankings behind national and state No. 1 Mission Viejo. There was the 2012 team that was sitting at 26-0 heading into the NCS D1 final that could have been State Team of the Year with a win, but the Dons lost in that game, 1-0, to James Logan of Union City.

The disappointment on the faces of the Amador Valley girls back in 2012 was easy to see, as was the sheer joy that the girls of 2024 showed after they completed one of the most stunning playoff runs by a lower-ranked team in any sport in state history on Saturday with a 13-11 triumph in nine innings at Oak Ridge of El Dorado Hills to win the CIF Northern California Division I regional championship.

Courtney Hennings has now made her mark as an Amador Valley head coach right alongside previous championship coaches Julie Marshall and Teresa Borchard. Photo: Mark Tennis.

The final game of the week itself against an equally inspiring group of girls from Oak Ridge who also refused to quit was a roller coaster ride of teams rallying from the jaws of defeat.

The week began for Amador Valley on Tuesday when it ventured to unbeaten state No. 1 St. Francis of Mountain View in the first round of the eight-team bracket with a 16-11 record in a No. 8 seed vs No. 1 matchup. Not only were the Lancers in line to be State Team of the Year if they had won the CIF NorCal D1 title, but they also would have ended No. 1 in the Line Drive Media Super 70 National Rankings (the successor to the FAB 50 national rankings from the early 2000s and through 2012 at ESPN).

Keep in mind as well that if CIF North Coast Section D2 playoff runner-up, Livermore, had advanced to the NorCal playoffs like runner-ups do in most CIF sections that Amador Valley would not have even been in the NorCal D1 bracket. Livermore, which opted out of playing in the regionals last week, would have gone in higher in the CIF’s competitive equity seeding system since it beat the Dons twice in the East Bay Athletic League. Amador, the NCS D1 champion, would have likely been the No. 1 seed in D2.

Once the games began, though, none of those rankings or seeding scenarios mattered at all. It was just playing the game and after the Dons plated three early runs against the Lancers and then a fourth, they hung on for the massive 4-1 victory.

“After beating St. Francis, we thought let’s just take it all the way,” said Amador Valley head coach Courtney Hennings. “I played here myself and it’s always been the goal to peak at the right time. For this team, we were peaking with the perfect timing.”

All bets were certainly off at that point for the NorCal title, but Hennings’ team still had a very tough road — literally — ahead of it. Just two days after knocking off St. Francis, the Dons hit the road for nearly three hours to Fresno where they played CIF Central Section D1 champion Clovis North of Fresno in the semifinals. They jumped on the Broncos for three runs in the third inning, then four in the fourth and went on for a 7-2 triumph.

Saturday’s game at Oak Ridge also required approximately three hours in the bus but in a different direction up to El Dorado Hills in Placer County. It was another CIF section title team to face. And the Trojans did not even have to play in their semifinal game two days earlier. They were supposed to play league rival Whitney of Rocklin (the same team they defeated in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 championship) but Whitney was forced to forfeit the game and drop out of the playoffs due to a player eligibility issue. While the Dons were traveling and playing, Oak Ridge was resting.

Kaylee Davis (holding plaque) was the hitting hero for Amador Valley in its win on Saturday and was the one who held previously unbeaten St. Francis to just one run as a pitcher earlier last week. Photo: Mark Tennis.

“These regional playoffs are something that is completely new for us,” Hennings said. “We haven’t been on a bus in years. But we ended up feeding off of it. When we came out here today, they were singing songs and completely into it.”

Now to the game itself, which required Amador Valley to find a way to win when it was down to its last out in the top of the seventh inning and trailing by a 7-4 score.

Oak Ridge had broken a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Carmen Montes de Oca with the bases loaded. A second run then scored on an error. Kyden Walker then stepped up by hitting an RBI single for the 7-4 lead.

Neither team scored in the sixth inning, and while Amador’s Emmerson Giles began the top of the seventh by drawing a walk, the next two batters were retired on a fly ball and then a strikeout. Taylor Oxe then drove another fly ball, but that one landed just over the out-stretched glove of the left fielder for a double that scored Giles. Still down to its last out, the next batter, Emily Bull, came through with a single that scored pinch-runner Sarah Candland. The line kept moving again when the next batter, Katie Barhite, singled to put runners on first and second. Pitcher Kaylee Davis (more on her later) was up next and ripped a drive into the gap that scored two runs and was credited as a triple. The four straight two-out hits suddenly turned an 7-4 deficit into an 8-7 lead.

Head coach Sam Toy’s team at Oak Ridge displayed similar determination in the bottom of the seventh. The Trojans also were down to their last out after seeing the first two batters retired. A walk drawn by Montes de Oca and a single by Gemma Almont, however, kept the inning going. Walker then had her second huge hit of the day with an RBI single that tied the score at 8-8.

Both pitchers, Davis for the Dons and Kennedi Freeland, a promising freshman for the Trojans who had entered the game in the fourth inning, were seemingly struggling in the Sacramento area heat as the game wore on. The umpiring crew already had to make a change and the game had been delayed for approximately 15 minutes earlier before the start of the fifth inning when one of the umpires (calling balls and strikes at home plate) was apparently afflicted with heat stroke.

After the first two batters in the top of the eighth were retired, McKenna Charbonneau came through for the Dons with a double. Mai Falcone came through even more following that as she launched a home run over the left-center field fence. Oxe was up next and blasted another homer for an 11-8 lead.

Oak Ridge players Emery Glaser, Carly Short and Sam Alekman plus the rest of their teammates left it all on the field during nine innings on Saturday against Amador Valley. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Oak Ridge didn’t waste time in the bottom of the eighth as it got right back to 11-10 on a two-run homer by Emery Glaser. The team’s most highly regarded player, N.C. State-bound shortstop Carly Short, then singled and scored the tying run on an error. The winning run was on base with just one out, but Davis got a fly ball out and pop up to keep the score tied.

In the top of the ninth, Ellison Schroeder re-entered to pitch for Oak Ridge. A single by Lauren Tran got things going for Amador, but it really got going when Davis stepped up and did something even better than her triple in the seventh. She blasted a ball over the fence for a two-run homer and a 13-11 lead.

In the bottom of the ninth, Davis was not sent back out to pitch by Hennings. Bull had been ready to go and the different type of pitches than the Trojans had been looking at all day were effective. They were retired in order and Amador Valley’s celebrations could begin.

Davis, who will play next at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, said after the St. Francis game that even she herself was a bit shocked that the Dons were able to get a win. She also admitted she was on fumes pitching in the seventh and eighth innings.

“It’s just beyond exciting to do this,” she said. “The entire season has been a roller coaster. We needed that St. Francis game to give us a boost.”

Amador Valley began the week not even included in the State TOP 35 rankings and will now obviously have to come way up even with a final record of 19-11. Hennings and the players laughed when told they were going to make it very difficult for the final rankings. Oak Ridge finished 24-5 and with a win certainly would have finished in the top 10. The final rankings will be completed later in the upcoming week.

Davis also was quick to credit the players at Oak Ridge for the way they played in what turned out to be a 13-11 classic scorefest.

“Honestly, they all played as hard as we did,” she said. “We were both starting to get tired. We just played to the end, either of us knowing it was going to end but both giving 100 percent.”

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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