Hughson, Big Valley Christian, Mariposa claim softball titles (with video)

ragostini@modbee.comMay 17, 2014 

The sights and sounds from Sac-Joaquin Section softball championship day on Saturday, May 17, 2014, in Stockton, Calif. Hughson, Oakdale and Big Valley Christian all celebrated title. (Ron Agostini/


— Hughson High School softball coach Rod Cree only thinks the Huskies’ championship season is concluded.

He’s charged with at least one more duty – designing those “4-Peat” T-shirts. Rest assured, he won’t mind.

The Huskies returned home Saturday with their fourth consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section Division V banner, and they did it the hard way. Hughson surfaced from the losers’ bracket and applied back-to-back losses to Calaveras, the tournament’s previously unbeaten team, 4-1 and 19-5 in a winner-take-all rout that was stopped after six innings.

“We were thrilled with three. This one was unbelievable,” Cree said. “It was pretty special what our girls did.”

Don’t be misled by the wide margin of victory. Hughson’s journey was packed with drama. Star pitcher Courtney Thornhill accepted hugs and handshakes while still limping from an ankle fractured a month ago. Incredibly, she returned to the circle for the final six games.

“The doctor said she couldn’t hurt it any worse,” Cree said. “She was told, ‘If you can stand it, go ahead.’ 

Thornhill’s injury, incurred while she ran the bases against eventual Trans Valley League champion Ripon, inspired the Huskies. Ann Caton won four games while Thornhill rehabbed.

“We’re not here if not for Ann,” Cree said.

Hughson (21-6) sought a long day at the Arnaiz Sports Complex. Its wish was granted, thanks in part to a four-run rally on its first trip to the plate. Savannah Ahumada’s three-run double turned out to be the winning hit, resulting in the “if” game.

The matchup brought together two runners-up – Calaveras from the Mother Lode League and Hughson from the TVL. The Redskins jumped to a 4-0 lead, and for a while it was 5-0 until the run was denied because the batter missed first base. The break jump-started the Huskies.

Run-scoring hits by Ahumada and Thornhill preceded the game’s telling stroke – a go-ahead three-run homer to right-center by junior Jessica Garcia. From there, the game belonged to Hughson.

“It takes one spark with these girls,” Cree said. “When somebody gets it going, it’s hard to stop.”

Ahumada’s two-run double spiced an eight-run Hughson fifth. By then, it was over. Looking back, the Huskies’ heavy lifting happened Friday, when it eliminated Ripon and avenged a loss to nemesis Linden.

Division VII – Big Valley Christian sophomore Sara Layman struck out nine, and the last one – with the tying run at the plate – ignited the celebration of the Lions’ first Division VII title. The 4-2 win over Millennium of Tracy was sweet, given the fact BVC had blown two seventh-inning leads against the Falcons, the Central California Athletic Alliance champions.

In fact, Big Valley Christian (12-8) needed to win its final regular-season game just to earn its spot in the bracket. The Lions saved their best for last, however, and won their last five.

Layman tripled to set up BVC’s first run and, in the third, swatted a two-run single to left for a 3-1 lead.

“I feel proud of my team. We fought through it,” Layman said. “We all came here with nerves, but we knew it was our time.”

Big Valley Christian dropped section final games to Elliot Christian in 2008 and ’09. Not this time.

“I told them at our awards banquet that I didn’t expect anything less than a title,” coach Caprice Juarez said. “They deserved it.”

Division VI – Mariposa rallied for three runs in the fifth for a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Delhi, good for the Grizzlies’ second section title in three years.

Run-scoring hits by Shea Williams and Genevieve Kelsey keyed the comeback after the Hawks scored two in the fourth to lead 3-1.

Freshman Leah Lafata, the winning pitcher, did not leave though she wrenched her back during the middle innings.

“She didn’t want to get pulled out,” coach Tony Williams said. “She fought through it.”

Mariposa (19-6), the runner-up behind Waterford in the Southern League, eliminated Rio Vista 13-0 earlier in the day to reach the final. Delhi (14-11), which tied for second with Mariposa in the SL, advanced with a thrilling 2-1 decision over Waterford.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at or (209) 578-2302. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeSports.

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