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Late game rally keeps Hilmar softball undefeated in TVL
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Jayme Soares runs home and scores for Hilmar during the game against Escalon on Tuesday. The Yellowjackets won 5-1 (CANDY PADILLA/The Journal).

The Yellowjackets of Hilmar High School will remain atop of the Trans Valley League softball standings after besting the Escalon Cougars on Tuesday by a score of 5-1. The Yellowjackets overcame an impressive pitching performance by Escalon senior Brooke Davis, who tossed 12 strikeouts in six innings.

Both teams struggled at the plate early on as the game remained scoreless after 3 and a half innings. Escalon’s Davis had Hilmar batters swinging late, tallying six strikeouts in the first three innings alone. Meanwhile, an error by the Hilmar defense, a base hit and two walks surrendered by Hilmar senior Jenna Gomes had the Cougars threatening for an early score. The Yellowjacket defense was able to rebound, including executing a perfect double play in the top half of the fourth.

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Hilmar’s Jenna Gomes once again helped her Yellowjackets on the mound, going seven innings with five strikeouts in their semifinals game against Linden High (Journal file photo).

In the bottom half of the inning, the Hilmar offense capitalized on Escalon’s own defensive hiccups. Senior Jayme Soars started things off for the Yellowjackets by reaching on an infield single. She used her speed to end up at third base after an Escalon fielding error and scored on a Madison Johnston sacrifice fly.

“Jayme Soares is a tone setter for us in the leadoff spot and it shows after she was able to score. She can really get around the bases,” said Hilmar head coach Paul Willis.

“Maddy’s sac-fly in center field after was big. It put us on the board and it changed everything,” he continued.

Hilmar surrendered the short-lived 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth. Escalon junior Briana Vazquez led the inning off by working a walk against Gomes and quickly scored on a base hit by junior Emily Vickers.

The game remained tied at one run apiece heading into the sixth inning. In the top half, Gomes settled into a groove and worked a quick 1-2-3 inning. Hilmar’s offense built off of the momentum in the bottom half of the inning, exploding for four runs. Soares used her speed again to score the go ahead run on another Johnston base hit, and junior Emily Cogswell soon followed up with a two-run double to blow the game open.

Willis expressed his satisfaction with Cogswell’s ability to stay locked in after a tough couple of at-bats earlier in the game.

“Emily came in that five spot and made some nice adjustments. Early on she made a couple outs and made a nice adjustment there in the 6th. It was huge and turned out to be a difference maker,” Willis said.

Hilmar tacked on another run in the inning after freshman Camryn Mattos’ RBI single, making it a 5-0 game.

The score stood after Gomes closed the game out with another 1-2-3 inning in her seventh inning of work.

“I know Jenna pitched 7 innings and you know she wasn't perfect, but she didn’t have to be because of our defense,” Willis said. “She's a senior and she's been in this situation multiple times. She’s got a real calm personality out there, so when she had a couple walks, you couldn’t tell. Maybe she’s got ice water in her veins.”

Hilmar’s win improves their season record to 7-6. They also continue to sit atop the TVL standings with an undefeated 3-0 league record. Meanwhile, Escalon’s season record drops to 8-6-1 and their league record to 1-2, but fortunately for the Cougars, their fourth-place position in the TVL standings remain unchanged.