Oakdale High senior Lexie Webb stood motionless in the circle as she stared forward. Around her, dust swirled occasionally as the cheers and chants rang down at Stockton’s Arnaiz Softball Complex.
Her arm ached, she admitted later, but no one – neither Oakdale coach Larry Loger nor any spare weightlifter — could pry the ball from her hand.
“The main thing was the adrenalin got me through,” Webb said later. “My body is worn out.”
Webb, stoic and resolute on the outside but scraping for the last measure of energy on the inside, willed the Mustangs to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title. Since that time two months ago, the relentless pitcher-slugger received her high school diploma and continued her work with the NorCal Batbusters travel team. She's already made plans for Fresno State, her next softball stop.
But softball fans, especially those supporting Oakdale, won’t soon forget how the Mustangs claimed their first section title since 2014. And the postseason awards soon followed.
Oakdale was named Cal-Hi Sports Division III Team of the Year and Webb its Medium Schools Player of the Year. To no one’s surprise, Webb was an easy choice as the frontrowpreps.com American Chevrolet Softball Player of the Year. \
And this is no small feat: MaxPreps.com ranked Oakdale 45th in the nation. That’s everyone – public, private and charter schools of all enrollments.
“Our record (29-1-1) was the best in school history,” said Loger, who completed his 16th season as Oakdale coach. “Lexie is the best hitter I’ve ever seen and one of the best pitchers I’ve ever seen.”
Winning D-3 wasn’t easy. In fact, it became an obstacle course after Oakdale’s shocking and windblown 2-0 loss to Vanden at Arnaiz. Not only was it the top-seeded Mustangs’ first loss, it meant major work ahead. Oakdale had to win four games in barely 24 hours to bring home the blue banner.
The Mustangs did it thus: 3-2 over Del Campo, 3-1 in a rematch over Vanden; and the next evening, 3-2 and 12-2 in five innings over Golden Valley for the championship.
Spinning every inning for the Mustangs – all 26 over that taxing stretch -- was Webb, who lifted a typically good Oakdale team to greatness. She struck out only four in the abbreviated title game as the Mustangs wondered how much longer she could last.
“Coach kept asking, ‘Are you good?’” Webb said. “I said, ‘I can do it.’”
“She was spent,” Loger remembered. “But she is so mentally and physically tough and on-point, she survived it.”
Webb more than survived. She dominated. The four-year varsity star batted .598 for the season with 11 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .731 on-base percentage. Incredibly, she struck out only three times. Opponents were left with three options: Pitch carefully, walk her, or challenge her and face the consequences.
Her development as a pitcher this season, however, jumped the Mustangs to the elite level. She went 22-1 with a .64 ERA, featuring 271 strikeouts in 154 innings. She tossed two perfect games, three no-hitters and 13 shutouts, and walked only seven.
“It’s so unbelievable that we did it in the last year,” Webb said. “The team got along well and it was so much fun playing together.”
Golden Valley, needing only a single victory for the section title on the season's final night, took a 2-1 lead on an RBI hit by Marissa Bertuccio, Webb’s Batbusters teammate. From that point, Webb retired the final 13. Brittany Bye, one of Oakdale’s three seniors along with Webb and Emily Smith, drove in all three runs.
Golden Valley, shaken by the loss, allowed six runs in the first inning of the “if” game as Oakdale took charge. At the plate, Webb doubled twice, homered to left and drove in two.
“She would gladly take the ball in any situation,” Loger said. “She wanted the ball.”
Oakdale, which rolled through the Valley Oak League, witnessed a succession of players besides Webb who contributed. Freshman Sophia Ortiz replaced injured catcher Rylie Goodridge during the playoffs without missing a beat.
The Mustangs, still reeling after their loss the night before to Vanden, were about to fall behind Del Campo. To the rescue came centerfielder Jazzlynn Velasquez, who threw out a runner at the plate to keep the game scoreless.
“We had different girls step up all season,” Loger said.
But only Marissa Drewery, who went from Oakdale to a standout career at Cal, arguably was better than Webb in the circle. Loger was gifted with the ultimate two-fer: His best player, a top-tier talent, also was his team’s hardest worker.
“You should see her in the weight room,” Loger said. “She is a seven-day-a-week worker. And she’s getting the rewards.”
Loger recalled watching Webb when she was 10 at Oakdale’s Kerr Park. Even then, it was clear that the youngster was special.
The second-oldest of four children, Webb committed to South Alabama as a freshman but later reconsidered. One of her sisters requires special needs and Webb, family-oriented to the core, eventually signed with Fresno State.
“She inspires me,” Webb said regarding her sister. “She doesn’t do what normal people can do. I chose Fresno basically so she and the family can watch me play.”
The Webbs surely will be there rooting for Lexie and the Bulldogs. But will they see anything as compelling as what Oakdale did in those final four games in Stockton?
“When we got on the bus (after the loss to Vanden), no one was crying,” Webb said. “It was a wide awakening that someone could beat us and we had to do our best.”
That’s how Webb and the Mustangs made history.