Since bursting onto the scene as a freshman, Lexi Webb has dazzled her Oakdale High teammates and coaches with tape-measure home runs.
Now a junior, Webb is dominating from the chalked circle, too.
The right-handed dynamo is 13-0 with a 0.65 ERA. She's gone the distance in 10 starts, no-hit Central Catholic, and flirted with a perfect game against Sierra, a perennial section title contender.
"Lexi has really stepped up her pitching," Oakdale coach Larry Loger said. "She's thrown a lot more shutouts and really gone from, in my opinion, a thrower to a pitcher. That's been the biggest difference.
"She's able to locate pitches now. Lexi has always been a power pitcher, but now she can combine location. She's always had the spins and different pitches, she's just fine-tuned it all."
Webb's development has boosted Oakdale's stock in the eyes of many prognosticators. The Mustangs are No. 18 in Cal-Hi Sports' state poll, the only Stanislaus District team among the top-20.
Oakdale carries a season-long winning streak into one of the toughest stretches in its schedule -- the home stretch. The Mustangs travel to Lathrop on Friday, before facing Sierra (Wednesday at home), Central Catholic (Thursday at Rainbow Fields) and East Union (May 8 at Northgate Softball Complex) over the course of a week.
The showdown with Sierra will begin with an acknowledgment of the team's seniors.
In their first meeting, Webb smashed a two-run home run off Sierra ace Lindsey Walljasper, a Nebraska commit, and silenced the Timberwolves' balanced lineup.
Sierra's only base runner reached on an error by third baseman Grace Green, who tried to make a bare-handed play on a spinning grounder.
"She is by far the most complete player in the area," Loger said of Webb, who is hitting .600 with nine home runs and 34 RBIs. "She can do a little bit of everything. She's a good base runner, she can play first, third and pitch, and she can hit for power."
Despite its run of success, Oakdale (10-0, 17-0) clings to a one-game lead on the Timberwolves (10-1, 12-4). East Union (7-3, 14-6) is third.
The VOL, Loger says, remains a wide-open race.
"We have a group that is going out there and playing the game and having fun with each other," Loger said. "I don't feel a lot of pressure and I don't think they do, either.
"Yeah, it's fun to keep the streak going, but that's not our goal. Our goal is to do whatever we can to make a deep run in the playoffs."
While Webb and Green, an Oklahoma-bound prospect (.549, eight home runs, 29 RBI), have been the catalysts for the Mustangs' success the last three years, Loger believes his biggest difference-makers this spring have been his two biggest surprises: Leadoff hitter Adrianna Aguilar and Brittany Bye.
Both players have exceeded expectation, raising their batting averages by nearly .300 points since last season.
Aguilar is hitting .455 at the top of the Mustangs' order and is second on the team in runs (31), doubles (four) and fourth in hits (25).
Bye is Oakdale's top run producer with 36 RBIs. She is hitting .509 with 27 hits, 20 runs and 11 extra-base hits, including six home runs.
"Those two have made a huge difference," Loger said, "but it's not really a surprise. They were out there everyday working; they decided they wanted to be the two to make a difference. Sure, we have our weaknesses, like everyone does, but so far, we've played well."
Cal-Hi Sports State Softball Rankings
Published April 25, 2018
1. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego)
2. Los Alamitos
3. Gahr (Cerritos)
4. Lutheran (Orange)
5. San Marcos
8. Los Altos (Hacienda Heights)
9. Chino Hills
10. Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
11. Amador Valley (Pleasanton)
13. Freedom (Oakley)
15. Great Oak (Temecula)
16. Buchanan (Clovis)
17. Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita)
19. Oaks Christian (Westlake Village)
20. Esperanza (Anaheim)