Hilmar High softball is advancing to the second round of the Division-V Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs after defeating No. 4 Amador on the road on Monday in a close 6-5 final that saw multiple lead changes.
“We had to be mentally strong and we’ve been in that situation before,” said Hilmar head coach Paul Willis. “With long road trips and games and they are tough mentally and we had to make plays and we did. We had to hit the ball off a good pitcher and we did. We executed well through our lineup, whether it was a line out or bunt and good things happened for us.”
Hilmar High varsity softball will take on Escalon for the third time this spring.
The victory also marks the fifth straight win for Hilmar.
“Escalon is a very good team. In order to beat them, you can’t give them extra and they do a good job capitalizing on mistakes,” said Willis. “We are trying to score early and put pressure on them...They have the best pitcher in league and can hit all through the lineup and we’ll try to keep it close till the end.”
The Yellowjackets’ first round game was a bit dramatic, with multiple shifts in momentum.
Hilmar got on the board first in the top of the third, but then Amador notched a pair of runs in the bottom of the third to take a 2-1 lead.
Hilmar followed up by adding three in the top of the fourth to lead 4-2, but then Amador added one in the fourth and fifth to tie it 4-4.
In the top of the sixth Hilmar added a run when Steelman had an RBI hit to go up 5-4.
Once again Amador responded and got a run in the bottom of the sixth to tie it 5-5.
“Back and forth. After the third it was back and forth the entire time,” said Willis. “It was a grind for both teams, especially for us since you know it’s a two-hour trip.”
In the top of the seventh Hilmar’s McKenzie Martinez got on base after a hit.
Teammate Kaitlyn Egli then followed up with the game-winning RBI base hit to score Martinez to make it 6-5.
Hilmar starting pitcher Madison Aguiniga capped off the final out with a strikeout after she tossed a complete game.
Cheyann Hughes was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBI. Steelman was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Martinez was 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
No. 5 Hilmar (18-7) will next travel on the road to take on No. 1 Escalon (18-7) at 4 p.m. Wednesday.