The top-seeded Mustangs, pushed forward by the relentless pitcher-slugger Lexie Webb, twice dispatched Golden Valley 3-2 and 12-2 in five innings Thursday night to win the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title. But it’s how they did it that will always trump the feat itself. And it’s why the Mustangs made sure to bask in their joy.
Oakdale (29-1-1) surged from the consolation bracket to win four games in barely a day. Webb, bound for Fresno State, tossed every pitch and, by the end, shook off the pain.
“The main thing was the adrenalin got me through,” Webb said. “My body is worn out.”
The winner-take-all game was an anticlimax. Marissa Bertuccio, the senior who carried No. 3 seed Golden Valley to within a win of its first section softball title, was touched for six first-inning runs as Oakdale launched a high-volume 16-hit attack.
Two-run hits by Mariyn Waterman and Alexa Aguilar gave Webb and her tiring arm enough cushion. Webb struck out only four but was content to let her defense work behind her. With the bat, she doubled twice, homered to left and drove in two runs.
“She’s one serious athlete. She is the best hitter ever at Oakdale High and she’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever seen,” Oakdale coach Larry Loger praised. “Fresno State is lucky to get her. She’s a warrior.”
As Oakdale pulled away, both fans and the coaches wondered how much longer Webb could last. Consider her 26-inning sojourn, all with the Mustangs one loss from elimination: A tense 3-2 victory over Del Campo, followed by a 3-1 win over Vanden. It was Vanden which lengthened Oakdale’s path to the title by topping the Mustangs 2-0 on Tuesday.
Stoic and business-like, Webb labored but benefited from the comfortable cushion.
“Coach kept asking, ‘Are you good?’ I kept saying, ‘I can do it,’” Webb said. “I was breathing myself through because my body was hurting. I think I could have made it (through seven innings). It would have been a little rough.”
Golden Valley (28-5), the No. 3 seed, needed to win only once. Its problem was Webb. She yielded only six hits over the two games.
The Cougars’ best chance came in the opener. Freshman Naomi Moore greeted Webb with a solo homer to right-center, and Bertuccio’s RBI double put GV in front 2-1 in the third. From that point, Webb retired the final 13 and struck out 12 overall.
Oakdale shortstop Brittany Bye, who doubled home her team’s first run, delivered the decisive blow. With two out in the fifth and Jazzlynn Velasquez at third, Bye lofted a high fly ball that cleared the 205-foot mark and Moore’s glove in center for the go-ahead homer.
Webb, Bye and second baseman Emily Smith – the Mustangs’ senior leaders – have played softball together since they were 8. Their experience kicked into gear after the loss to Vanden.
“We’re so knitted together that I felt we were able to drive off each other and get what we need,” Bye said.
The final day centered on Bertuccio and Webb, the long-awaited matchup of the area’s top two pitchers. Afterward, they gave each other a hug as the teams shook hands. Bertuccio and Webb will return to the same dugout this weekend with the NorCal Batbusters. For Bertuccio, the weekend seemed 100 miles away. Her passion and tears were reserved for her Golden Valley teammates.
“I don’t want to be on the field with anyone else but them,” she said.
Across the field, Oakdale’s party continued. The 2014 team, which featured twins Kindra and Maddi Hackbarth (Arizona State), was the last Mustangs team to take home a blue banner. The Mustangs didn't claim this prize with Oklahoma freshman Grace Green. The current Oakdale product went the distance, and they did it the hard way.
Said Loger, “It’s the best season Oakdale ever had.”
Oakdale 100020 0 -- 3-8-0
Golden Valley 101 000 0 – 2-2-0
Lexie Webb and Sophia Otiz. Marissa Bertuccio and Nini Aranda. Oakdale – Brittany Bye 2-for-3, 2-run HR, RBI 2b; Rilyn Cassaretto 2-for-3; Webb 2b; Ortiz 2b. Golden Valley – Naomi Moore HR; Bertuccio RBI 2b.
Oakdale 61014 – 12-16-0
Golden Valley 200 00 -- 2-4-2
Game stopped by 10-run rule
Lexie Webb and Sophia Ortiz. Marissa Bertuccio and Nini Aranda . Oakdale —Webb 3-for-4, HR, 2 2b, 2 RBIs; Brittany Bye 2-for-4, 2 2b, 2RBIs; Alexa Aguilar 2-for-3, 2-run 2b; Mariyn Waterman 2-run 1b; Cortney Koelmans 2-for-4; Emily Smith, 2-for-4, RBI 2b. Golden Valley – Bertuccio RBI 1b; Vanessa Saltos RBI 1b.
Records – Oakdale 29-1-1, Golden Valley 28-5.