The strength and depth of pitching in the Central California Conference was on display at Tuesday's fourth annual Paul Leonardo Memorial All-Star Games.
Four CCC pitchers combined to throw two shutouts as the CCC opened the four-team tournament format with a 9-0 win over the Western Athletic Conference all-stars. The CCC followed that up with a 1-0 win over the West Sierra League.
Turlock's Shelby Frutoz, Atwater's Megan Escobar, Merced's Abby Flores and Golden Valley's Marissa Bertuccio combined to allow just four hits and strike out 16 batters in 14 scoreless innings.
"It's nice to have the MVP (Frutoz) and the Pitcher of the Year (Bertuccio) in there," said Golden Valley coach Ross Cruickshanks, who helped coach the CCC all-stars. "The other girls Megan and Abby also did great. It's nice to have that luxury. We didn't have to run out one pitcher out there."
Frutoz started both games and delivered three perfect innings both times. Bertuccio closed each game, pitching a scoreless sixth and seventh both times.
"I think whoever was pitching, we're all good pitchers," Bertuccio said. "Shelby, Abby, Megan and myself, we have confidence in everyone."
The CCC and WAC were scoreless through four innings in the first matchup.
The CCC finally broke through in the fifth when Turlock's Faith Hernandez led off with a double and scored on a ground ball off the bat of Golden Valley's Maddie Martinez.
The CCC scored six runs in the sixth. Frutoz and Golden Valley's Vanessa Saltos delivered two-run singles. Merced's Jewels Perez, Flores and Lily Ramirez and Pitman's Lehua DeLeon all contributed doubles in the sixth as the CCC cranked out seven hits and sent 10 batters to the plate.
Meanwhile, Dos Palos' Janessa Jasso pitched three scoreless innings, striking out nine during the West Sierra League's 4-2 win over the Southern League. Jasso also hit a home run.
That set up a CCC vs WSL matchup for the tournament title.
Again the pitching dominated in the championship game. Coalinga's Aubrey Walker and Jasso combined to limit the CCC to just one run on seven hits.
The same CCC quartet of pitchers combined to toss a three-hit shutout with eight strikeouts.
The only run came in the second inning when Pitman's Kai DeLeon singled and advanced to third on a walk and a ground out. Buhach Colony's Paytin Mercado fouled off a couple of tough pitches from Walker with two strikes before hitting a dribbler in front of the plate that she beat out for an infield single that scored DeLeon.
"It felt good even thought it's not the hit I envisioned," Mercado said. "I'm glad the hit had a good outcome for us. We needed that run. That's the most important thing."
The WSL had a runner reach base to lead off the seventh inning, but Bertuccio struck out the side and stranded the potential tying run on third base.
The biggest crowd in the event's four-year history showed up with addition of the WSL and SL.
"It's fun seeing all my friends," Frutoz said. "When we play league we're playing against each other. We compete first and we're friends after. This was a good environment with us all playing together."
Eight $500 scholarships were handed out from the Paul Leonardo Memorial Scholarship Fund by game organizer Joe Leonardo. The scholarship recipients were selected for their performance in the two games on Tuesday. The winners were Frutoz and Bertuccio as the top pitchers in the tournament. Mariposa's Kiya Smith was selected as the top offensive player and Ceres' Vianney Perez was picked as the top defensive player.
One other player was selected from each conference and they were DeLeon from the CCC, Mariposa's Violet Matlock from the SL, Central Valley's Scarlett Lloyd from the WAC and Jasso from the WSL.
"I'm happy with the outcome. It was a great event," Cruickshanks said. "I'm glad we were able to be a a part of this."