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Yellowjackets’ improbable run comes to a close in Section finale
hilmar softball 2018 team pic
The 2018 Hilmar High varsity softball team are the Division-V Sac-Joaquin Section Championship runners-up after falling to Escalon in Saturday’s final.

Four. That is the number of teams from Hilmar High that reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Championship game in this school season alone. Two in the fall (football and girls volleyball), one in the winter (girls soccer) and now softball in this spring season.

No. 5 Hilmar softball’s improbable run in the Division-V bracket as a lower seed, which had to start off on the road, first defeated No. 4 Amador in a close match then fell to the champs in the quarterfinal before winning back-to-back elimination games against No. 3 then No. 2.

The ‘Jackets then earned the right to take on league foe, Escalon, for the fourth time this season. Escalon came out on top in a 6-0 final from the Arnaiz Softball Complex in Stockton on Saturday for the Section Championship. 

I attribute to the never quit attitude, the girls never gave up, we didn’t give up till the third out of the 7th inning.
Hilmar head coach Paul Willis

“Hilmar athletics this year was unbelievable,” said Hilmar head coach Paul Willis. “Two wins in girls volleyball and football and two others played with girls soccer and softball, incredible year when you get that many teams to qualify and reach the championship, it doesn’t happen a lot.”

The school currently has 675 students enrolled.

“We are a small school and these kids work hard and good to see these kids, for the entire school, that hard work pays off and for the community of Hilmar,” said Willis. “I attribute to the never quit attitude, the girls never gave up, we didn’t give up till the third out of the 7th inning.”

It was a rough start for the Yellowjackets. Willis stepped in at the last minute to coach this season and Hilmar started off at 5-4.

They then kicked off league play in the TVL going 1-3 before something sparked.

The difference finally set in after their third league loss in four games. Following that run, the Yellowjackets had an opportunity to avenge their first loss to Hughson, a team that has been a power in the TVL over the past decade, and they did, winning by a score of 8-4 back on April 17.

From there, they won 11 of their last 14 games.

All three of those losses came at the hands of Escalon.

First on May 1 in a 9-0 final.

This was followed by the ‘Jackets’ second-round loss on Wednesday to Escalon that ended 9-1.

The team didn’t have time to relax, but they certainly were able to rally instantly, playing the following day.

They squared off with Hughson in an elimination game at 5 p.m. on Thursday and defeated the Huskies 9-5.

This gave them the shot at the semifinal elimination that came later that afternoon with an 8:20 p.m. start on Thursday against Linden, a team that tied with Calaveras at 16-2 for the best record in the Mother Lode League.

Hilmar’s magical run continued as they ousted the Lions with a wild three-inning rally that saw the Yellowjackets score seven of their eight runs in an 8-4 final.

The win catapulted the ‘Jackets into the Section Championship game just two days later.

This scenario, however, saw Hilmar needing to win twice, not just once to earn the crown.

Escalon notched two runs in the first and second inning and took an early lead while Hilmar failed to capitalize on four runners in scoring position in the first and third innings.

Escalon scored two more in the fifth to top it off.

Hilmar pitcher Madison Aguiniga held Escalon to just seven hits in the final.

Escalon’s starter Chardae Hoskins went seven innings allowed two hits, walked five and struck out 13.

In 24 innings pitched against Hilmar this year, Hoskins allowed just one earned run.

“We had chances just couldn’t get that big hit and they did,” said Willis. “Seemed every time they had a runner in scoring position, they got big hits. They are a really good team, good pitching and defense and it just wasn’t meant to be.”

The Yellowjackets ended the year with a 20-9 record. It’s the first time that the ‘Jackets amassed a 20-plus win season since 2010 when they went 20-6.

“I told people I came in last minute and I really enjoyed the season, it was an incredible ride,” said Willis. “I thought the girls did a great job and I truly enjoyed having an opportunity to coach this team. Just happy to go along for the ride, crazy this past week and when it was over I told them how proud I was.”

Hilmar athletics is not done for the season as track and field is sending six representatives to the Sac-Joaquin Section Master’s this upcoming weekend.