During the year they are rivals, but on Tuesday a handful of softball players from Turlock and Pitman high schools joined forces to play on the same team when the Central California Conference took on the Western Athletic Conference from Livingston High.
It was the third annual showcase of the Paul Leonardo WAC v. CCC All-Star softball game and the very closely contested game showcased some of the best players in the area.
The CCC prevailed for the second straight year, with the help of two players from Pitman and three from Turlock, after a late run secured the game behind strong pitching that ended it at 4-3.
Sophie Mayol (Turlock), Morgan Aguiniga (Pitman), Claire Fountain (Pitman), Jessie Miranda (Turlock) and Jayden Mendoza (Turlock) were all representatives in Tuesday's game.
“I actually wasn't expecting to make it here, I didn't think about it, just made it… I am lucky and appreciative,” said Mendoza.
“I was sick my freshman year, but I came last year and this year,” said Aguiniga who has been selected to compete in all three games. “They (WAC) definitely had tough pitching from the start, it was tough as opposed to last year... really good this year.”
The game was a defensive contest with a multitude of pitching standouts from both sides.
Cali Nunes of Ceres started for the WAC, while Cassie Gasper of El Capitan took on the starting duties for the CCC. After two innings of ball, both tossed a pair of shutout innings to kick off the game.
“The CCC has some really good competition so coming out I knew there would be a lot of girls with great skill so I was excited and nervous... but the good nerves, not anything bad,” said Mayol.
With Aguiniga up to bat in the top of the third, Atwater's Eileen Martinez crossed home plate safely after Pacheco's Autumn Randle passed ball gave room for the 1-0 lead.
The fourth inning was scoreless and no run was scored again until the bottom of the fifth after Alyssa Waltman of Los Banos drilled an RBI double to tie the game at 1-1.
Samantha Jacquez of Pacheco then hit the go-ahead just one batter later with an RBI double to take a 2-1 lead by the start of the sixth.
“It was off and on since the competition is pretty tough, but I knew all of our teams coming together from the CCC would be nearly unstoppable,” said Miranda.
Mayol of Turlock then started the sixth inning rally with a leadoff walk.
Fountain of Pitman followed with a hard single to put two locals on base at this point.
“I want to be more of a leader on the bench and field as well,” said Fountain. “This was super exciting because it's awesome to play with all these girls and our league is also tough.”
Two batters later allowed Tatianna Anderson of Buhach Colony to slam a two-run single to go up 3-2 with two outs.
In the bottom half of the sixth, the WAC tied it at 3-3 after Los Banos' Savannah Valenzuela hit an RBI sacrifice.
Jewels Perez of Merced scored the fourth and final go-ahead run in the top of the seventh after back-to-back pass balls during Aguiniga's at-bat gave way for the go-ahead to make it 4-3 and after that the pitching did the rest.
Cheyenne Mahy of Atwater was able to shut down the door on the WAC's attempt of any comeback when she tossed two shutout innings with stellar pitching that made her one of the CCC's best over her four-year stint with the Falcons.
Mahy allowed one runner to get on after a mishandled play at third base, but retired six of seven batters faced.
“I think with the pitching in the CCC it is so competitive, so I knew we weren't that hurt,” said Mayol. “Now the goal is for the CCC title and go deep in playoffs that is the plan.”
Turlock ended the year with the best overall season in over a decade after finishing with a record of 16-12, which included a first-round victory over previously undefeated in the MMC, Gregori.
“I am glad I got to end my career being able to make playoffs, glad I got to do it with my team... we had a really good team, I really enjoyed everyone,” Mendoza added about the Bulldogs’ season.
Pitman was 11-11-1 and barely missed the playoffs after being eliminated by Turlock in the final regular season game back on May 9, but with the bulk of their lineup returning, there couldn't be a more optimistic team heading into next year.
Aguiniga said competing for the CCC title was the goal next year and Fountain agreed.
“Definitely going to battle for that CCC title with Turlock,” Aguiniga added.