Wednesday's crosstown rivalry game between Pitman and Turlock's varsity softball teams was more than just the season finale, it was an opportunity for the winning side to clinch a playoff berth in the upcoming postseason bracket.
After a tumultuous start from Pitman that saw the momentum swing to Turlock's side by the end of the third inning, the Pride came back to score four unanswered runs and clinch the win in walk-off fashion after Morgan Aguiniga drove in the game winner to end it at 5-4.
“We lost, but credit to Pitman,” said Turlock head coach Jill Ogden.
“It was an intense game like I expected and we were fortunate that the outcome went our way,” said Pitman head coach Joe Lewis. “It was a roller-coaster season — had the highs, the lows, but it was tough. It made us feel like you accomplished something. (I'm) not happy with our record, but to make the playoffs is big.”
Pitman clinched the playoff spot and made it official after Atwater topped Buhach Colony in Wednesday's game.
The Pride end the year with a Central California Conference record of 5-10, the same as the Bulldogs and the Golden Valley Cougars.
Lehua DeLeon scored the first run for Pitman in the opening inning after getting on base by rule of an error.
DeLeon moved over to second and third on pass balls and finally scored on a pass ball to go up 1-0.
Both sides went scoreless in the next two innings and in the top of the third, Turlock's bats awoke.
Faith Pattee led off with a single and then Jessie Miranda, Sophie Mayol and Shelby Frutoz followed up with consecutive doubles and four hits later, the Bulldogs were up 4-1, ending with a Kelly Weber RBI single.
“We scored first, but then they strung together their hits and really earned it,” said Lewis. “After that though they didn't get a run after and we really pieced away at them.”
Denae Finney started for Pitman but only tossed 2 1/3 innings before getting relieved by Alanah Laupua after injuring her finger.
Laupua closed it out and went 4 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit and no runs.
The dynamic changed for Turlock's offense and the hits became limited after the third inning, while Pitman started to chip away slowly but surely at Turlock starter Shelby Frutoz, who pitched a complete game, allowed four hits and struck out five.
Pitman scored one in the fourth inning after Michelle Robinson hit an RBI base hit to make it 4-2.
Then in the fifth inning, Laupua helped herself after slamming an RBI double to cut the lead to one at 4-3.
“Tight game like I expected with the last playoff spot, everyone knew what was at stake good game all around,” said Lewis.
Although Turlock outhit Pitman 6-4, the critical hits came for the Pride when they were needed.
Down by one run in the seventh, Pitman had two outs and bases loaded after Laupua walked and after a wild pitch, Taylor Honnette scored the tying run to make it 4-4, with runners at second and third.
Finally with two outs, and runners in scoring position, sophomore Morgan Aguiniga hit a shot to the third baseman but after a tough hop, it went through and allowed DeLeon to score the final run in walk off fashion to secure the one-run victory.
“It's exciting because you set goals to achieve and win league and make playoffs, but at the beginning it didn't go that way... just a feel of relief,” Lewis added.
Aguiniga went 1 for 4 with an RBI, and Laupua was 1 for 3 with a walk, a double and an RBI. DeLeon was 1 for 4 with two runs scored and Michelle went 1 for 3 with an RBI.
Pitman's next game will be the opening contest of the Division I CIF Sac-Joaquin Section tournament.