Gregori High freshman Mehana Johns confessed that her head was spinning.
She had gone hitless in four times to the plate, but there she was – bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two out and a Modesto Metro Conference title riding on her atbat.
“Are my coaches going to tell me to bunt? Am I going to strike out? I was going crazy,” Johns admitted. “When I saw that pitch, I knew this was it.”
“It” turned out to be one clutch swing of her bat, resulting in a ringing single to left to send home Melanie Menor with the winning run and a 3-2 win Thursday over Enochs.
The Gregori dugout spilled onto the field to celebrate a win that clinched no worse than a tie for the MMC title. The Jaguars (17-3-1, 10-1), one game ahead of Enochs (13-9, 9-2) with one to play, all but dethroned the two-time defending champ in the teams’ second nine-inning showdown in less than a month.
Johns’ single offset Alexis Flores’ game-winning hit for Enochs against Gregori on April 2. Not much separates these teams, and they engaged in another title-worthy showdown.
Nikki Alexander, Gregori’s pesky leadoff hitter, drew a walk in the ninth followed by an outfield error. Enochs pitcher Elisa Perez, after yielding a walk to load the bases, encouraged the Eagles with a strikeout to leave them one out away from the 10th.
But Johns, the sister of Gregori coach Alannah Johns, brought it all to an end as the shadows lengthened on the Jaguars’ Senior Day.
“I knew that both teams would bring their best. Awesome game,” Alannah Johns said. “That was an awesome adjustment (by Mehana Johns).”
Gregori’s early 2-0 lead, built by the hustle of freshman Ashley McBay (3-for-4), was offset by Anlyana Munson’s solid 2-run single that tied it for Enochs in the fourth. From there, Perez and Gregori sophomore Madison Marsh matched zeroes.
Marsh got stronger in the late innings and retired her last nine batters in order. She’s a sophomore, one of five underclassmen in Gregori’s starting lineup, and she supplied some important momentum for the home team.
“We started to tighten up on defense and dug deep on everything,” Marsh said. “That’s what motivated me.”
Enochs’ loss to Modesto set up the Enochs-Gregori high-stakes matchup. The Eagles toiled hard to stay close. They minimized Enochs’ 2-run third when sophomore Brooke Bettencourt saved an additional two runs with her diving catch in right. Perez dodged a bases-loaded jam an inning later.
“We had the same game again, except they came out on top this time,” Enochs coach Tim Williams said. “We actually had three teams in it this year (including Modesto) and pushed everybody to the limit. The MMC is getting a little stronger.”
Gregori has jumped to the top, however, thanks to a plucky freshman.