SAN JOSE — No school in Peninsula Athletic League history had ever captured Central Coast Section championships in each girls’ basketball, volleyball and softball in the same season.
So, it was fitting Aragon softball — a program that had never previously won a CCS title — capped the historic trifecta.
The No. 3-seeded Lady Dons (22-6 overall) rode a four-run second inning and a complete-game, four-hitter by senior pitcher Holly Fletcher to a 6-1 victory over top-seed Watsonville (23-5) in the CCS Division I championship game Saturday at PAL Stadium.
“I think they were just so excited and so relieved to get that monkey off their back,” Aragon head coach Roger Miller said. “We had a chance to make history today and become the first Aragon team to win a championship. … I’m just so happy for the girls.”
Previously this school year, the Aragon girls also won the CCS Division II volleyball championship, followed by the CCS Division II girls’ basketball championship. On the softball diamond, the Dons appeared in just one previous CCS championship in 1986.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” Aragon junior Shannon Galliano said. “It’s an amazing feeling. And this is one of the teams I will never forget, and all the experiences.”
Aragon — an offense that hit .340 as a team this season — sent nine batters to the plate in the second inning, but recorded just one hit amid a four-run rally. That hit, the first of the day for the Dons, was delivered by Galliano as the left-handed hitter lined a two-run single to left to give Aragon a 4-0 lead.
It was three walks and a hit batsman by Watsonville pitcher Jessica Rodriguez that set the table. It wasn’t that Rodriguez lost the strike zone, though. She pitched carefully to freshman cleanup hitter Megan Grant, who led of the inning with a walk. Then junior Makaila Tuakoi got hit by a pitch and junior Siulolovao Folau reached on a one-out error to load the bases.
Then Elisa Jee and Kayleigh Puchinelli each worked RBI walks to put the Dons on the board. Jee rebounded from a 0-2 count to walk after a seven-pitch at-bat to force home Grant. Then with two outs, Puchinelli worked eight pitches to earn the free pass to plate Tuokoi.
“It was so important,” Miller said of the two RBI walks. “It set the whole stage for the game. The girls, coming in, we told them just to stay in the strike zone. … We stayed in our strike zone and the girls did just an incredible job of staying in there and not chasing stuff. So, that was huge for us to score those first two runs.”
Then Galliano made it hurt, jumping on a 1-1 outside screwball for a two-run single, playing Folau and Jee.
“I just went up to bat thinking I need to put the ball in play,” Galliano said. “Anything to help my team. If I didn’t, that’s OK, because I know my team’s going to pick me up. Our bats are fantastic.”
Fletcher was fantastic as well. The senior stalwart in the circle had allowed 12 runs (nine earned) through three previous CCS playoff wins. Against a Watsonville lineup batting .335 on the season, though, she allowed just one run on four hits to improve her season record to 17-5.
“Her overall performance was outstanding,” freshman catcher Liv DiNardo said. “We worked really hard in practice with the corners. And once I got to know the umpire good enough to get the pitches where he wanted them, we just worked on those spots and kept it going from there.”
Fletcher dominated early with a high fastball, setting down the first 10 batters she faced. She then battled through innings four, five and six, with Watsonville stranding six runners through those innings.
“Never comfortable with a lead,” Fletcher said. “Unless it’s like 10 runs, 11 runs, when are you ever comfortable? But I was pumped up from the lead that we did get.”
The senior’s most grueling battle came in the fifth inning. With Aragon leading 5-1, Watsonville loaded the bases with two outs, bringing No. 3 hitter Juliana Wilson to the plate. Fletcher was all too familiar with Wilson from a tournament matchup earlier in the year when Watsonville rallied for a 5-3 comeback victory, a game in which Wilson homered.
Saturday’s pivotal rematch, with Wilson representing the tying run, saw the left-handed hitting slugger get one in the air, but Aragon right fielder Samantha Kennedy ran it down to end the threat.
“When [Wilson] came up with the bases loaded, I said: ‘OK, here we go. This may be the game on the line right here,’” Miller said. “And we were lucky to get out of it.”
Aragon added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Puchinelli opened the inning with a bloop single. Then the freshman tandem of DiNardo and Grant scorched back-to-back two-out singles, with Grant driving home Puchinelli to up the lead to 6-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, Fletcher set down the side in order. She fielded a short bounder to the right side of the infield and shuffled a throw to first baseman Cassidy Trizuto for the first out. Then she finished with back-to-back strikeouts, totaling 12 on the day.
The Dons’ on-field celebration was underwhelming. After the final swinging strike, DiNardo simply turned and handed the ball to the umpire. Then the team gathered outside the dugout for some congratulatory hugs.
Fletcher, though, said the celebration was certainly not lacking for emotion, as tears started welling in her eyes as soon as the last out was recorded.
“As I was walking off, I was like: ‘I need someone to hug me right now,’” Fletcher said. “I was so emotional.”