HUGHSON -- Both pitchers were throwing strikes Friday, which meant runs were at a premium in the Trans-Valley League softball showdown between title contenders Escalon and Hughson.
Hughson pitcher Aly Hoffman not only kept the Cougars at bay, she knocked in the tying run and scored the eventual game-winning run as the Huskies beat No. 2 small-school Escalon 2-1.
The result gives Modesto Christian (11-2) sole possession of first place, with Escalon (15-8, 10-3) and Hughson (14-6, 10-3) each a game back. MC hosts Hughson on Wednesday and visits Escalon on Friday -- though all three teams are guaranteed playoff berths. The TVL runner-up, however, opens against defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion Orestimba (21-3).
Escalon scored in the third on Corrie Dollarhide's triple, but she was stranded at third base. Hughson scored twice in the fourth, going ahead on Madelyn Birchall's RBI single.
Hoffman and Escalon freshman Caitlin Brooks each struck out four and neither walked a batter.
MODESTO CHR. 14, RIPON 4, at Salida -- Left-handed hitting Sloan McHann drilled her seventh homer of the season, a second-inning grand slam, and had five RBIs as the No. 4 small-school Crusaders (20-5, 11-2 TVL) routed the Indians (6-16, 2-11). Rachel Borges was 3 for 4 with three stolen bases for the Crusaders, who had 17 hits and led 9-0 after two innings.
RIVERBANK 7, RIPON CHR. 6, at Ripon -- The Bruins (8-10, 6-7 TVL) survived a sixth-inning rally to top the Knights (3-13, 0-13) in a game that featured two standout catches at the center-field fence. In the fifth, Riverbank's Cali Avey raced back to catch a ball hit by Sarah Nieweg, while RC's Whitney Davis made a similar play to deny Jessica Guzman an extra-base hit.
BUHACH COLONY 6, TURLOCK 2, at Turlock -- Diane Gallagher belted a two-out grand slam in the top of the fourth, leading the Thunder (18-7, 10-0 Central California Conference) past the Bulldogs (8-14, 2-9). BC's Alex Molina had a four-hitter.
ATWATER 2, PITMAN 0, at Atwater -- Danielle Vineyard, who earlier this season signed a letter of intent to play at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia, fired a two-hitter as the Falcons (16-8, 9-1 CCC) topped the Pride (6-17, 1-10) to stay on the heels of first-place Buhach Colony. Sarah Leonardo and Jennifer Fierro provided the punch, each driving in a run to back Vineyard's pitching.
Buhach Colony and Atwater have clinched the conference's two playoff berths, but still to be decided is the seeding and the league champion. BC won their first meeting 16-2 in mid-April and the teams meet in Friday's regular-season finale.
HUGHSON 2, MODESTO CHR. 2, at Salida -- With a playoff berth on the line, Emilee Helfrich knocked in a crossing pass from Alexia Rovedatti with 8 minutes remaining as MC (12-7-2, 7-5-2 TVL) forged a draw with the Huskies (11-4-3, 11-1-3). Hughson took a 2-1 lead midway through the second half when Cathlene Cardoza redirected a corner kick from Gabby Ybarra into the goal.
The Crusaders have been to the playoffs the last four years, and won the Division V title -- at that time it was for the section's smallest schools -- from 2004-2006. MC meets Escalon on Tuesday, and MC advances with a win or a tie, while Escalon needs a win to earn the the league's third and final playoff berth.
TVL TENNIS, at Modesto -- Escalon won the boys and mixed doubles championships in the league tournament, while Modesto Christian took the girls doubles. Escalon's Jon Segale and Vince Aufdermaur won in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), while the Cougars' brother-sister combination of Daniel and Julia Thompson rolled to a 6-2, 6-2 win.
The singles titles will be decided today at 9 a.m. at the SOS Club, with Escalon's Tibor Konecny facing Ripon's Oliver Kowlitz for the boys crown and Escalon's Kaitlyn Brayton meeting MC's Presli Pilati in the girls final.