Winning a Central Coast Section championship was the furthest thing from Holly Fletcher’s mind during her freshman year at Aragon.
It was a painstaking 2016 season that saw the Lady Dons win just two games. But that number quickly improved to 11 overall wins in 2017, followed by 15 in 2018. This season, the total grew to 22, culminating in the most celebrated win in Aragon softball history.
Fletcher and the Dons did what no other team ever had, recording win No. 22 in the CCS Division I championship game Saturday at San Jose’s PAL Stadium with a 6-1 victory over Watsonville — the program’s first CCS crown.
“It’s crazy how we turned it around in four years,” Fletcher said. “I can’t believe it.”
While Aragon’s freshman tandem of shortstop Megan Grant and catcher Liv DiNardo ruled the headlines— combining for 22 home runs — it’s the senior Fletcher who has earned the final Daily Journal Athlete of the Week honors of the 2018-19 school year.
The right-handed pitcher ran the gamut in Saturday’s CCS championship victory, setting down the first 10 batters of the day, followed by the last five. Between those bookends of dominance, she gritted through two perilous innings, including a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by inducing a fly out off the bat of Watsonville’s most dangerous power hitter, Juliana Wilson.
It was the second time Aragon faced Watsonville this season. The previous matchup saw Wilson homer to lead her team to a 5-3 comeback win.
“I gave up a couple long balls last time and I made sure that’s not going to happen again,” Fletcher said. “Really keeping them off balance, getting them to swing at my junk pitches.”
Fletcher’s foremost weapon, however, was her fastball. She notched 11 strikeouts in the game, 10 of which she finished off with her heater. She had to earn the first one, needing nine pitches to strike out Watsonville leadoff batter Maliyah Sandin in the first inning. It set the tone for Fletcher setting down 10 straight, including a three-pitch strikeout of Sandin in the fourth.
“She gets dialed in,” Aragon head coach Roger Miller said. “And I know that look in her eye, once she gets dialed in, that we’re going to take it.”
Watsonville refused to go quietly though. And despite Miller’s confidence in his senior pitcher, and Aragon jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the second, he also admitted he was never comfortable against a Watsonville lineup that hit .335 this season.
“No, because I knew how good they can hit,” Miller said.
It didn’t take much for Watsonville to get its offense in the game. With one out in the fourth, junior No. 2 hitter Jazmyn Martinez hit an infield single into no-man’s land between Fletcher and the second base position. Then Wilson walked to put runners at first and second with one out.
Fletcher battled cleanup hitter Maya Guerrero in a prolonged at-bat, with Guerrero falling behind in the count 0-2 before taking two pitches off the plate, then fouling off three Fletcher offerings. On the eighth pitch of the AB, Fletcher got Guerrero to swing through an outside fastball for the second out of the inning. Then, after an RBI single by Anastacia Alba to close the score to 4-1, Fletcher ended the threat with the high heat to notch her third strikeout of the inning.
After battling through the bases-loaded jam in the fifth, Fletcher opened the sixth with a milestone strikeout — her 200th of the season. Alba followed with a line-drive single to center. But that would be the last of the Watsonville offense as Fletcher dialed it in once again and set down the last five batters she faced, including back-to-back punch-outs to finish with 202 on the season.
“I was crying,” Fletcher said of winning the CCS title. “I was getting emotional. I was just so excited.”
According to MaxPreps.com, Fletcher was one of just two pitchers in CCS to reach 200 strikeouts this season. The other was Watsonville pitcher Jessica Rodriguez, who finished as the CCS strikeout queen with 209.
Fletcher finished with a better crown, though, one that didn’t even occur in her wildest dreams three years ago when she first set foot on the diamond at Aragon. Now, this perfect mix of four freshmen, three sophomores, four juniors and four seniors are CCS champs for the first time in Aragon softball history.
“It’s perfect because that was our goal,” DiNardo said. “Our goal was team chemistry and winning CCS. And it happened.”