The pitch was supposed to finish high in the strike zone. Instead, it came to a rest beyond the left-field fence at the Oakdale High School softball complex.
With a flip of her bat and one arm raised, Maddi Hackbarth highlighted the Mustangs’ 7-1 victory over Sierra on Tuesday with a mammoth two-run home run.
The long ball flipped the scoreboard, erasing a 1-0 deficit. The Mustangs would score seven unanswered runs to notch their 10th victory in 10 games.
“She was looking for a pitch that she could tie the game up with. She wasn’t necessarily trying to hit a home run,” Oakdale coach Larry Loger said, “but with her power and the solid contact … That was big because all of a sudden momentum, us; energy, us.”
Grace Green went the distance, pitching around eight hits and two walks. She had seven strikeouts and shut out the Timberwolves (7-2, 4-2 Valley Oak League) over the final six innings.
Oakdale is 5-0 in the VOL and draws Central Catholic on Thursday. The Raiders are the home team, but without a field, the Mustangs will host.
“I don’t think Grace had her best game,” Loger said. “If you talked to her, she’d probably tell you that she was a little off. But she knows we’re going to score runs. We have three good pitchers, and they’re confident that nobody is going to shut us out. If they do, tip your hat to them because we’re pretty good at the plate.”
Green helped her cause with an RBI triple and a single to set the table for Hackbarth’s hefty swing. Green was 3 for 4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
I knew 1-0 wasn’t going to be enough. I figured we’d have to score three runs to be in that game. The more they saw of our pitchers, the more they got ready to tee off.
Vic DeAnda, Sierra softball coach, on Oakdale’s vaunted lineup
Oakdale belted 13 hits, chasing Sierra ace Lindsey Walljasper after six innings. Five players had multiple hits, including two apiece by twins Maddi and Kindra Hackbarth, Shay Trent and Emily Greenwood.
Walljasper is one of the top sophomores in the state but looked ordinary against the perennial VOL and Sac-Joaquin Section title contender.
“We know a pitcher can be good the first time through the order, but the second time through we think we have the advantage,” Loger said. “We’ve already seen her stuff for the day, and we’re very good at making adjustments. We have a solid lineup that knows how to hit.”
Sierra grabbed momentum early, jumping on Green for five hits in the first two innings.
Devi Coglio was 3 for 4 with a triple and led off the game with a bunt single. She scored on a hit by Kendelle Messersmith (2 for 4).
Normally, a 1-0 lead would be enough for Walljasper, but these Mustangs have proven they’re anything but normal. Featuring seven seniors and nine players already committed to a four-year university, Oakdale wasn’t fazed by the early deficit.
Instead, the Mustangs studied Walljasper the first time through the order and then …
5 Number of home runs by Oakdale senior catcher Maddi Hackbarth in the last four games.
After Green singled to start the third, the Fresno State-bound catcher turned on a pitch that flattened out through the zone, driving it over the wall in left field to make it 2-1.
“I knew 1-0 wasn’t going to be enough. I figured we’d have to score three runs to be in that game,” Sierra coach Vic DeAnda said. “The more they saw of our pitchers, the more they got ready to tee off.
“What we needed to do was stop some of the bleeders and errors here and there. You give a good-hitting team like that more than one opportunity, they’re going to hit you.”
Maddi Hackbarth is swinging one of Oakdale’s hottest bats. She has at least one home run in four consecutive games.
“I’m definitely feeling it. The last four games have been a thrill,” she said. “I’m seeing the ball really well right now, so it’s definitely helping myself but it’s also helping the team.”
Hackbarth has kept her approach simple during the streak: See ball, hit ball. She’s hitting .432 with a team-high five home runs and is one five players with 10 or more RBIs.
“The main thing with my hitting is stay back and hit the ball – see the ball, hit the ball,” she said. “Going up there, I knew she had a good up ball. I had to stay off it or get on top of it. She threw me one and it didn’t jump, so I took advantage of the pitch.”
As she rounded first base, the fourth-year varsity player channeled that adrenaline into a scream. That confidence permeated the lineup.
“You could say that I do get very pumped up,” Hackbarth conceded. “It helps out my team. I love the game, so I got to show it.”
Lost in all the hits and runs was the play of Oakdale’s defense. Center fielder Kindra Hackbarth made a diving catch in the gap in the third inning, and first baseman Lexia Webb snared a line drive with the bases loaded in the sixth.
Oakdale, which received web gems from center fielder Kindra Hackbarth and first baseman Lexia Webb to escape jams, had extra motivation coming into the game. Disappointed with an anticlimactic finish to the NorCal Classic – a situation that involved a forfeit and cancellation of the championship game – the Mustangs treated Monday and Tuesday like medal rounds.
“We had a really physical practice (Monday), where I’m guessing every girl that plays infield got 100 ground balls,” Loger said. “We were a little bit lackadaisical because of our disappointment in the NorCal tournament and how it turned out, so they decided we’re going to work hard and be ready for Sierra. They wanted to play somebody and they wanted to play somebody good.”