The Turlock varsity softball team ended their eight-year playoff drought on Tuesday afternoon after concluding the regular season in a dramatic walk-off fashion against crosstown rivals, Pitman High.
Both sides remained tied at 2-2 heading into the bottom half of the seventh.
From there, Turlock’s Jayden Mendoza became the hero of the afternoon once the senior drilled a hard RBI single past the shortstop and drove in sophomore Faith Erb for the 3-2 walk-off victory on senior day.
“Obviously, it kind of sucks that it came down to us two for the final spot because I believed we both deserved to go to the playoffs,” said Pitman head coach Joe Lewis. “They are a good team and I hope they go far in the playoffs.”
“Jayden is a gamer and works so hard at practice every day and is a leader in her own quiet way but has come through so many times,” said Turlock head coach Jill Ogden. “It was exciting; we haven’t had a walk off in a while. That rivalry game with Pitman is really tough and Pitman has been playing really well.”
Prior to Tuesday’s regular season finale, the Pride of Pitman had won four of five while Turlock had won just one of the last five.
None of that mattered in the crosstown final which was looking to crown the final playoff spot in the Central California Conference.
Turlock prevailed and earned its spot for the first time since 2009 and coach Ogden knew it was a long time coming.
“We knew that this was a playoff team, so we are excited, we wanted to be back here,” said Ogden.
Turlock ends the regular season at 15-11 and 7-5 in the CCC. Turlock won seven league games for the first time since 2010, when the ‘Dogs went 7-5. The team’s 15 victories also mark the most wins since 2009, when they won 16 and took second in league at 8-4.
Pitman ends the year with an 11-11-1 overall record and 6-6 in the CCC.
“We had an up and down season,” said Lewis. “In the second half of league we tightened it up a little bit and were playing a lot better and got on a little roll. We still lost, I am not sure, how many close games, but it didn’t matter in the end.”
The Pride started Denae Finney on the mound who pitched the entire game, ending the day with 6 and 2/3 innings of work.
Turlock scored a pair of runs in the first inning after Sophie Mayol drilled an RBI double to make it 1-0 followed by a Shelby Frutoz RBI single that extended the lead to 2-0. In that inning alone, Turlock had three of its six total hits for the game.
Frutoz pitched a complete game, tossing seven innings while allowing no earned runs, walked two and struck out 11 on 101 pitches. She also went 1-for-1 with three walks.
Holland Henson scored the first run for Pitman in the top of the third and Claire Fountain drove in the second and final run for Pitman to tie the game at 2-2 heading into the bottom half of the third.
From there, Finney and Frutoz displayed great pitching ability, holding both respective sides scoreless until the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, Erb was able to beat out the throw from the infield and reached base safely.
Once the second out was intact, extra innings didn’t seem too far out, but Finney walked Frutoz on the next at-bat, then with two on and two outs, Mendoza stepped up to the plate with a clutch opportunity.
Knowing it could be her last high school game, Mendoza took two quick balls and on an 0-2 count, she leveled the ball between the third basemen and shortstop and brought in Erb who slid home safely and immediately the entire bench cleared as they hugged the walk-off victory to continue their season.
“Going into the last inning we had the top of our lineup up and we knew that Sophie barely missed two home-runs and we had our speed at the top,” said Ogden. “We put Jayden at the fifth spot to protect Shelby, and we knew they might walk her, that’s fine, pitch to Jayden…”
Pitman had four hits for the game while Turlock finished with six hits, including two in the seventh.
Turlock committed three errors, including one in the seventh and Pitman committed just two errors.
Nobody on either side finished the game with multiple hits.
Pitman will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2013 season. Prior to that, they had made the postseason five of six years from 2011-2016.
Turlock will next compete in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Tournament with an opponent yet to be determined and at a time yet to be decided. For more information check cifsjs.org.