Nathan Mollat/Daily JOurnal
Half Moon Bay third baseman Angela Brazil throws across the diamnond for an out at first
during the Cougars’ come-from-behind, 3-2 win over Capuchino. The win secured an automatic CCS berth for the Cougars, while the Mustangs will apply for an at-large bid.
Amy Francis, Half Moon Bay’s No. 9 hitter, made the most of her second chance.
After her ball into left-field foul territory was dropped by the Capuchino left fielder, Francis dumped the next pitch she saw in front of the left fielder, driving in a pair of runs and turning Half Moon Bay’s 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Cougars then retired the Mustangs in the top of the seventh to secure the win on the final day of the regular season.
“Honestly, I didn’t see her drop it. I was running for my life,” Francis said. “I felt [the ball off the bat the next time] was kinda short. I thought it would be in an awkward place.”
Not only did the win secure a tie for second place — with Hillsdale — in the Peninsula Athletic League’s Bay Division, it guaranteed a spot in the Central Coast Section playoffs for Half Moon Bay (10-4 PAL Bay, 20-7 overall). The top three teams in the Bay receive automatic bids to the post season, and a loss to Capuchino would have given the Mustangs the berth.
“We were tied for second (coming into Thursday’s game), but if we lost, we would have dropped to fourth,” said Half Moon Bay coach Deanna Rocha. “Our goal every year is we want to finish in the top three and get an automatic bid.”
After four scoreless innings, it appeared that bid would go to Capuchino. The Mustangs (8-6, 15-11) scratched out a run in the top of the fifth and added a second run in the top of the sixth to take a 2-0 lead and were only six outs away from punching their own ticket to CCS.
But the Capuchino defense came up short when it mattered the most. The Mustangs committed four errors in the game — including two during Half Moon Bay’s three-run, sixth-inning rally in which all three of the Cougars’ runs were unearned.
“You gotta play defense,” said Capuchino coach Todd Grammatico. “If we play defense the way we normally do (we win the game).”
Half Moon Bay’s game-winning rally started with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. With Kallista Leonardos on first base, Ally Sarabia and Olivia Hedding hit back-to-back singles to load the bases. Morgan Jones hit a ball between the Capuchino third baseman and shortstop, with the ball glancing off the third-baseman’s glove, enabling Leonardos to score from third to cut the Mustangs’ lead in half, 2-1. Francis followed and dumped a ball into shallow left field. Sarabia easily scored on the play and Hedding was close behind. Jones was thrown out at third for the final out of the inning, but Hedding’s run counted.
Which was news to Francis.
“I didn’t know the second run scored,” Francis said. “I was wondering why my teammates were freaking out.”
Rocha credited the Cougars’ 13-12 win over Aragon on April 17 as the key to Thursday’s rally. Half Moon Bay trailed the Dons 10-6 in the seventh inning, but scored seven runs and then held on to beat Aragon.
“They learned in that game against Aragon (they can come back),” Rocha said. “We said, ‘Now we know we can do it.’ They never stopped believing. I felt the rally would happen. [We] wanted it.”
Capuchino took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth when Allie Stines got a one-out base hit. Karina Chavarria followed with a slow chopper to third, but the Half Moon Bay first baseman couldn’t find the bag with her foot. After initially being called out by the base umpire, a conference with the home-plate umpire concluded the first baseman did miss the bag and Chavarria was ruled safe. A Taylor Brazil single loaded the bases and Rebecca McKenna drove in Stines with a groundout to second.
The Mustangs doubled their lead to 2-0 in the top of the sixth. They loaded the bases on a walk to Miki Solorzano, Rafaela Dade reached on an error and Lili Luevano singled to load the bases. After Solorzano was erased at the plate on a forceout, Stines came through with a single to right to drive in Dade with the Mustangs’ second run of the game.
It took a while for the Half Moon Bay offense to get going after seeing their leadoff hitter ejected in the top of the first inning. She was picked off second by Stines after a bunt single and a stolen base, and in the ensuing rundown, she tried to run through the Capuchino second baseman trying to get back to the bag. The umpires ruled she used excessive force and was tossed. Rocha admitted that knocked the Cougars on their heels for a few innings.
“That was definitely a blow,” Rocha said. “Just what it does to the team. She was our fastest runner.”
In the end, however, Francis made sure the Cougars went home happy.
As for Capuchino, Grammatico, despite his team’s 15-11 overall record, believes his team will receive an at-large bid to CCS. Traditionally, the fourth-place team in the Bay Division gets a berth.
“I’m pretty confident we’re going to get in,” Grammatico said.
The CCS selection meeting is this weekend in San Jose.