Just like that, Gregori High's championship aspirations went up in smoke.
But that's what happens when you go up against a pitcher named Cheech.
Cheyenne Harper, known to her Enochs High teammates as Cheech, threw a two-hit shutout Tuesday as the Eagles won 3-0 and clinched the outright championship of the Modesto Metro Conference.
Harper, maybe the only other Cheech this side of Cheech Marin (of the legendary comedy team Cheech and Chong), no-hit the Jaguars in the teams' first matchup this season and wanted to prove her first victory was no fluke.
"I did," said Harper when asked if she'd read remarks in the newspaper by Gregori coach Juliana Santos, the former Orestimba High star and Stanislaus District Player of the Year (2008). "I think she was hoping to get better competition from her team, and I think she got it.
"I have so much respect for her; I grew up watching her play. But it did make me want to prove it wasn't a one-time thing."
Santos, whose team was missing key players in the 10-0 loss to Enochs (11-0 in the MMC) on March 28, was hoping to fire up her team last week when she said the first result was a fluke, and that her team would be ready to scrap this time around.
It appeared she was right. Gregori (9-2) seemed full of life and ready for a fight. But Santos disagreed.
"I just think we came out flat, just not as intense," said Santos. "This was for league. This was for first place. We needed to make adjustments at the plate sooner than we did."
Santos, noticing Harper's reliance on the riseball, wanted her players moving back in the box to take that pitch out of her arsenal.
"The few who did move back, it paid off for them," said Santos. "They did much better."
But Harper adjusted, too.
"They caught on to me ..." said Harper, who will attend Alabama A&M in the fall. "I had to move it around a little more and give them something different to look at."
After giving up two singles in the second Gregori's only hits of the game Harper retired 16 of the final 17 batters she faced. She got the only run she'd need in the bottom of the second when Angelique Salinas blooped a single just back of third base that fell between three defenders. Jasmine Temple slid under the tag and was safe by an eyelash.
"I knew this game was going to be like this, and we expected a better game than it was last time," said Enochs coach Tim Williams, whose team finishes the regular season next week against Davis. "It was a different kind of win. Last time, we hit. Their pitcher did a nice job today and kept us off balance. Now, we know we can win either way."
In the third, Gregori pitcher Kristin Borst found herself in a bind, with one out and the bases full. She got Jordan Barber to fly out to left fielder Bryanna Menor, but when Taylor Wilson, the runner on third, bluffed toward home, Menor's throw to the plate was off the mark and Wilson scored.
The Eagles added their final run in the fourth. With one out, Alexis Flores walked. Haylie Prater tried to lay down a sacrifice, but the ball rolled foul about 45 feet up the line. First baseman Madison Marsh was in position to field the ball in fair territory and tag out the oncoming Prater when a teammate yelled to let it roll foul. She did, giving up out No. 2 in favor of strike one.
On the next pitch, Prater laid down a better bunt that rolled between Borst and Marsh. That put runners on first and second with one out, when it could've been two outs with a runner on second. After another bunt single by leadoff hitter Taylor Wilson, Harper lifted a sacrifice fly to left the potential third out for a 3-0 cushion.