STOCKTON — Outside the main playing field at Arnaiz Softball Complex hangs an advertisement banner for the venerable Stockton eatery, The Waterloo.
Seems fitting, because Linden High was able to beat the team that has been its Waterloo the past two seasons.
The Lions, led by the pitching of Lauren Watanabe, blanked Hughson 3-0 in Wednesday’s second round of games of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 tournament, propelling them into a Friday showdown with Mother Lode League foe Calaveras, an 8-4 winner over Ripon in Wednesday’s other late game.
Hughson has played in the last four section championship games, winning the last three.
The Huskies beat Linden twice in the 2012 tournament and twice last year. Both times, the teams met in the championship game and both times, Hughson pulled out a one-run victory in the seventh inning.
That could still happen, but Watanabe made sure it will require a lot more work for the Huskies to repeat the trick.
“It’s nice to be in the winner’s bracket instead of the loser’s bracket,” said Watanabe.
The loser’s bracket is unfamiliar territory for Hughson, which didn’t suffer a loss in the 2012 and 2013 postseasons.
“We’ve seen them do it before,” said Hughson coach Rod Cree, referring to the Lions advancing to title games after suffering a playoff loss. “We were able to get by in that first game, so we’re able to absorb a loss like this.”
Calaveras, which whipped through its opener, a 4-2 win over Lindhurst, had more than an hour between games. Ripon, meanwhile, needed more than two hours to put away Argonaut 7-3 in its opener. The Indians had to race from Field 3 to Field 2 and had just a matter of minutes to prepare for their nightcap.
Ripon coach Robert Vernon offered no excuses, however.
“These girls play four or five games a weekend in July during travel ball,” said Vernon, whose team is making back-to-back playoff appearances after a 16-year postseason absence. “No excuses. We got outhit, bottom line.”
Nevertheless, the rest aided Calaveras pitcher Megan Walters, who’s been battling a head cold of late.
“It gave me a few minutes to rest, catch my breath and get hydrated,” said Walters. “That was nice. That was preferable to what Ripon had to do.”
Hughson needed eight innings in its opener Wednesday to beat Marysville 3-2.
After the Huskies erased a 2-0 deficit in the top of the fifth when Mackenzie Babbitt and Hannah Alcorn delivered back-to-back run-scoring doubles, the game remained knotted until the eighth.
With the bases loaded, Jessica Garcia was drilled by a pitch on her right hip, plating what proved to be the winning run.
“There was no way she was getting out of the way of that thing,” said Cree. “That thing was a heat-seeker.”
Not that Garcia wanted to get out of the way.
“When she released the ball I could see the spin and I knew it was going to hit me,” said Garcia, a junior. “I was excited because it meant we were taking the lead.”
Linden, champs of the Mother Lode League, advanced to its showdown with Hughson by beating Escalon 6-2.
The Cougars’ cut a 4-0 deficit in half when senior Lexis Prim blasted a two-run homer in the fourth.
“Honestly, I was just trying to calm down,” said Prim, a senior. “There were two outs, a runner on and I knew I needed to get her in.”
To calm herself, Prim said, she was humming the tune to Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” in her head.
“I saw how deep they were playing, so I needed to either barely swing or swing for the fences. I swung for the fences.”
The Lions took some of the zip out of Escalon’s comeback attempt when they got both runs back in the bottom of the fourth.
“That dragged us down and we weren’t able to get back in it.”
Calaveras jumped out to a quick lead in the first inning against Lindhurst, loading the bases with nobody out. Cleanup hitter Jennifer Scantlen drove in a pair with a two-run single, putting runners at the corners for pitcher Megan Walters, whose sacrifice bunt pushed across the third run of the frame.
Lindhurst cut the lead to 3-2 before the Redskins added another in the bottom of the sixth when Kharli Robertson’s slow roller to second plated Callie Fischer from third.
That was all Walters needed.
“Those early runs really helped me have confidence,” said Walters, a senior. “I felt like I needed more because when they got their two runs it got a little scary.”
Against Argonaut, Ripon scored twice in its half of the first, getting a run on a wild pitch and another on an RBI single by Mikaela Ferreira. One inning later, the Indians added two more, getting another run on via by junior Darian Vandermaaten.