Softball: Balers dynasty wins a 10th CCS title

The San Benito High softball team has a pregame pep talk prior to last Saturday's title contest against Carlmont.

When the San Benito High softball team fell behind by four runs entering the bottom of the second inning in the Central Coast Section Division I playoff championship game on Saturday, the Balers had no doubt they would come back and win. In fact, first-year Balers coach Andrew Barragan told his players they had them right where they wanted them—no joke.
The players were equally confident as well.
“There was no doubt we would come back and beat them,” first baseman Madisyn Gutierrez-Urban said. “Because that’s what kind of team we are.”
“I had this vibe I couldn’t see the game going any other way than having us winning it,” shortstop Callee Heen said. “You never want to fall behind early in a CCS title game obviously, but there are certain games you feel, and I didn’t doubt us one bit.”
Now everyone knows why. The Haybalers rallied for a wild 11-6 win over Carlmont at San Jose’s PAL Stadium to capture their 10th section championship in the last 11 years.
The dynasty continues.
“The whole game I never really got the butterflies out because they kept putting pressure on us,” Barragan said. “But we were able to stay the course and do what we did all year. Words can’t describe the feeling right now. I’m overwhelmed with joy.”
The Scots were probably overwhelmed, too—but not in the way they envisioned. The No. 1 seed Balers (26-3) used a combination that has worked for them all season long, mixing in hard hits with aggressiveness on the basepaths and laying down squeeze bunts to force errors from the opposition.
That’s exactly what happened in the pivotal fourth inning, when San Benito scored three times off a couple of squeeze plays to take their first lead of the game, 6-5. The No. 3 seed Scots (25-4) scored a run in the top of the fifth to make it 6-6, but the Balers scored the final five runs of the game to win going away.
San Benito scored two times in the bottom of the fifth when Dominique Monteon and Gutierrez-Urban ripped doubles to the outfield fence. The Balers added three more in the sixth to essentially seal the outcome. Suzy Brookshire absolutely demolished a pitch from Scots pitcher Sanni Kariaho that sailed well beyond the 230-foot fence in left field.
Monteon and Gutierrez-Urban—the Nos. 6 and 7 hitters in the lineup—came up big again, this time with run-scoring singles to give Balers ace Amanda Moisa a five-run cushion to close things out. Moisa, who struggled with her command for most of the game, persevered after a rough start.
“Amanda was missing her spots all day, and she didn’t have her best stuff,” Barragan said. “But she battled through it and made the pitches at the end when it counted the most.”
In going the distance, Moisa allowed nine hits and four earned runs while striking out six. Heen reached base in all four of her plate appearances, with two doubles, a single and being hit by a pitch. Monteon, the freshman who has already verbally committed to play at the University of North Carolina, finished with a game-high three runs scored.
Gutierrez-Urban also had three hits, finishing the season strong after struggling with her hitting early in the season.
“I was focusing more on going oppo (the opposite field),” she said. “It feels amazing to know we gave it our all and I didn’t let my teammates down.”
Early on, it looked as if this was going to be a nightmarish repeat of the Division I playoff title game in 2014, when Carlmont rolled the Balers, 8-1. Not only had the Scots gotten to Moisa, but the San Benito hitters were off-balance as well. The Balers had runners at second and third base with no out in the bottom of the second inning only to come away with just one run.
Carlmont starter Abygail Lan eventually struck out the side—with San Benito hitters finishing off their back foot, a clear sign of the nerves, Barragan said—and the Balers trailed 5-3 after three innings. However, it didn’t take much longer for the fundamentally-sound San Benito hitters to find their rhythm, and once they did, the mistake-prone Scots—they committed six errors—couldn’t stop the onslaught.
Afterward, as the Balers celebrated by posing for photos, players were soaking in the moment.
“There is a lot to remember, but the one thing (I’ll remember most) is not giving up,” Heen said. “All season the girls never gave up no matter how far we were behind.”
Heen, who along with Brookshire will be playing at Division I programs next year, won her third CCS title.
“This one is the most exciting because we had Andrew as a new coach and people doubted us,” she said. “But we never doubted ourselves.”
Indeed, Barragan instilled his own style and imprint on the program. The players clearly bought in, and the result was another section championship.
Said Barragan: “It’s been a great year with a great group of girls. This is something we’ll remember forever.”

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