SAN JOSE — It was a triumph four years in the making.
After a decade since its last section title, No. 1-seeded Carlmont (27-3) captured the Central Coast Section Division I crown with an 8-1 win over No. 3 San Benito (23-4-1) Saturday at San Jose’s PAL Stadium. The victory marks the eighth all-time CCS championship for the Scots and their first since 2004.
Senior pitcher Rebecca Faulkner’s career culminated in a masterful performance as the left-hander took a one-hit shutout into the seventh inning, surrendering just one run on three hits throughout.
“She’s a fierce competitor and you know you’re going to get her best,” Carlmont head coach Jim Liggett said.
The Scots’ ace was at her best, touting her patented barbaric yawp with every offering as she heaved an intimidating four-pitch repertoire. Exhibiting exceptional command of each her fastball, changeup, screwball and drop ball, Faulkner retired the first 11 batters of the game, and 19 of the first 20. She struck out seven while walking none.
Yet Faulkner’s postgame demeanor was hardly celebratory. One of three Carlmont seniors to play varsity ball for four years, Faulkner broke into tears after a concise response as to what it meant to finish her high school career with such a historic win.
“It means the world,” Faulkner said.
The legacy of San Benito is unrivaled in modern CCS softball history. The Hollister-based Haybalers entered into Saturday’s championship game having won eight consecutive CCS titles. Since eliminating Carlmont from the semifinals in 2004, San Benito entered into Saturday’s matchup with a 6-0 all-time record in CCS play against the Scots, including championship-game wins in 2007 and ‘12.
“Ultimately our expectations were to win this game,” San Benito’s 13th year head coach Scott Smith said. “We’re disappointed, but at the same time Carlmont deserved to win today.”
Carlmont managed just six hits in the game against San Benito pitcher Adrianna Ibarra. But the Scots made the most of four walks and two hit batsmen, as each of their starting nine reached base in the game.
“I think everyone contributed their part today and just throughout the whole CCS tournament,” Scots cleanup hitter Mariko Kondo said. “So, I think everyone did awesome.”
The Scots went large in the second, scoring four runs in the inning. After Carlmont loaded the bases without yet having tabbed a hit in the game, sophomore Kelsey Ching delivered a clutch single that ultimately cleared the bases when the ball shot past a San Benito outfielder, scoring Kondo, Danielle Giuliacci and Kirra Loucks. With Ching advancing to third base on the play, senior Missy Pekarek followed by lining an RBI single to center to plate Ching.
In the fourth, Carlmont added a pair of insurance runs. After Loucks was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame, Ching bunted pinch runner Sydney Adair to second. Pekarek then delivered another line-drive RBI single to score Adair, with Pekarek advancing to second on the throw home. Faulkner then added to her team-best season hit total with an RBI single to center to plate Pekarek.
In the sixth, Faulkner again helped her own cause. After a leadoff walk to Loucks, Ching laid down her second sacrifice bunt of the game. Sophomore leadoff hitter Jacey Phipps singled to right field to score Loucks. Then Faulkner capped the scoring by roasting an RBI triple to center to plate Phipps.
In addition to her 19-1 record on the mound this season, Faulkner totaled a team-best 42 hits and 39 RBIs. As a team, the Scots hit for a .387 batting average in 2014.
Faulkner’s Carlmont legacy was etched in the pitching circle though. With the win Saturday, the southpaw leaves a 55-10 career record. She moved into sixth place on Carlmont’s career wins list earlier this season. She did so while sharing pitching duties with Kondo no less, a strategy which could prove valuable as the Scots attempt to reach the CCS playoffs for the 29th consecutive season next year.
Faulkner also split time in the circle as a freshman. While posting a modest 5-4 record in 2011, she platooned with Giuliacci before the latter converted to the outfield as a sophomore.
Along with Faulkner and Giuliacci, first baseman Gabby Pons also played varsity ball since the start of her freshmen season. The senior won two legs of the team Triple Crown this season with a .467 batting average and six home runs.
However, Faulkner is the only one of the trio who will pursue a collegiate career. While she is set to play next season at UC Riverside on a full athletic scholarship, Giuliacci and Pons are both hanging ‘em up with the close of the triumphant season. Giuliacci will be attending University of Oregon in the fall while Pons will attend San Diego State. Yet each said they do not intend to play in college.
An upbeat Giuliacci was all smiles after Saturday’s long-awaited CCS title win though. And the senior — who graduates Thursday — was adamant about what it means for the 2014 Carlmont Scots to etch their place in the program’s prestigious softball tradition.
“It’s an honor,” Giuliacci said. “I’ve been on varsity for all four years and it’s been our goal since we were freshmen. And to know that we were the ones who broke [San Benito’s] winning streak in CCS is amazing because we know that we’ll be known forever. We’re like a family. So it’s really cool.”