After an early exit from the Central Coast Section playoffs last season, the San Benito High softball team finds itself in a familiar position—back in the championship game. The No. 15 seed Haybalers rolled to a 5-0 win over No. 11 San Mateo Thursday in a Division I semifinal at San Jose’s PAL Stadium.
San Benito (17-13) plays a familiar foe in the finals in Gilroy (18-9-1), the top seed that finished in second place in the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division. The Balers, of course, earned the co-championship with Watsonville. The teams split two games in the league season, and it’s only appropriate the third contest will be the most important. Game time is 12:30 p.m. at PAL Stadium.
“A Hollister-Gilroy championship? We wouldn’t want it any other way,” Balers coach Andrew Barragan said. “They’re well coached, fundamentally sound and the No 1 seed for a reason.”
The Balers, who lost in the opening round in the Open Division playoffs a year ago, are peaking at the perfect time. They’ve allowed just one run in three postseason contests, with ace Amanda Moisa delivering time and again. The senior right-hander was on her game, utilizing a curveball and changeup with devastating results.
Moisa allowed just four hits and struck out six in five shutout innings, and Julia Woeste allowed just one hit over the final two innings to close things out. It’s been an up and down season for Moisa, who had surgery for a torn labrum in the off-season. It’s a rather serious surgery for a pitcher, so Moisa deserves a ton of credit for getting back to the form that has made her the team’s No. 1 pitcher since her sophomore season.
“I feel like since the playoffs started, I started pitching better,” she said. “Something just clicked for everybody. I’m feeling very good and confident right now, and I’m trusting my defense a lot.”
Said Barragan: “Amanda has been dicing teams up, and what a way to go out for her senior year. It sets up a big stage, depending if we go with her or Julia on Saturday.”
Thursday’s game was never in doubt, as San Benito scored three runs in the top of the first inning—all with two outs—to effectively seal the outcome. Dominique Monteon singled, Madi Greco was hit by a pitch and Noel Chavarria’s single made it 1-0. Moments later, Chavarria stole a base, and on the play San Mateo committed an error to bring in another San Benito run.
Woeste followed that with a run-scoring single, the first of her game-high two RBIs. The Balers banged out 13 hits, 12 of which were singles. Monteon, Greco, Chavarria and Woeste—the team’s Nos. 3 through 6 hitters—combined for eight hits. Barragan said he’s particularly proud of this year’s team since it started 0-5 and played in a couple of tournaments that featured nationally-ranked teams.
“I’m proud of the way the girls battled back starting 0-6 to where they’re at now vying for a CCS title,” he said. “The girls went back to the drawing board, we made our adjustments and we played that national schedule for a reason.”
For San Benito to win its 11th section championship, it will have to get through a tough Gilroy squad. The Mustangs are also peaking and playing their best ball of the season, making Saturday’s matchup a potential doozy. Barragan could use Moisa or Woeste exclusively—or a combination of both in the circle—with a lot of that depending on how the game goes.
With Moisa coming off off-season surgery, there is no telling how her arm will feel on just one day of rest. However, Moisa said arm fatigue won’t be an issue.
“I think my arm is going to be fine,” she said. “(Throwing a softball) is a natural motion. I definitely haven’t done it (pitching on one days rest recently), but I’ve been doing drills and light bullpens to get my arm ready for this stretch. I’ll be ready Saturday.”
So will her teammates. San Benito’s loss to Santa Teresa in an Open Division quarterfinal last season has fueled the Balers’ run this season.
“It was definitely a motivating factor,” Moisa said. “We all wanted to get back and win a CCS title. It would mean a lot for all of us.”