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February 2, 2023

Balers denied a ninth straight CCS championship

SAN JOSE—It’s often said that all good things must come to an end.
And so it was for the San Benito High softball team, which was attempting to win a record-tying ninth consecutive Central Coast Section playoff championship on Saturday at Police Activities League Stadium.
But the No. 3 seed Haybalers were no match for No. 1 Carlmont, which rolled to an 8-1 victory in the Division I title game. It was the Scots’ eighth section championship, and first since 2004.
San Benito had won every D-I title since 2006, one of the great accomplishments in CCS history.
“Ultimately, our expectations are to win this game. We’re disappointed, but at the same time Carlmont deserved to win this game,” Balers coach Scott Smith said. “Absolutely, they were the better team today.”
San Benito, which ended the season with a 23-3-1 record, was the biggest reason why Carlmont (27-3) had gone 10 years since winning its last section championship. The Balers were 4-0 against the Scots in the postseason since 2005, including 2-0 in finals.
However, the two powerhouse programs’ latest tilt belonged to the team from Belmont. The Scots received a stellar pitching performance from ace Rebecca Faulkner, the UC Riverside-bound left-hander who struck out seven and allowed just three hits in shutting down perhaps the best offensive team in the section.
The Balers scored their lone run on Suzy Brookshire’s one-out triple to the fence in right-center. The blast scored Callee Heen, who had reached on her second single of the game. But that was all the Balers could generate against Faulkner, who imparted tremendous movement and spin on the ball to keep the San Benito lineup in check.
The Scots, meanwhile, had their bats ready for San Benito ace Adriana Ibarra, who allowed six hits, walked four and hit two batters in her full six innings. Carlmont scored all the runs it would need in the bottom of the second inning.
The Scots loaded the bases with one out when No. 8 hitter Kelsey Ching hit a liner to left field for a single. But the ball got away from the left fielder and went all the way to the fence, putting Ching on third base and giving Carlmont a 3-0 lead.
On the very next pitch, Melissa Pekarek hit a run-scoring single, and the Scots were on their way to victory. They scored two runs in the fourth and added two more in the sixth for good measure.
“Probably around the second or third inning, I think we got a little shellshocked,” Smith said. “It seemed like we were waiting for things to happen instead of making things happen.”
San Benito committed one error, but there were also a couple of defensive plays it didn’t make in Saturday’s game that in past years would’ve been outs.
“Obviously Rebecca threw a tremendous game at us, but we contributed (to our loss) by not making the big plays,” Smith said. “That’s been our history, we’ve always made those plays at the right time. There were a couple of balls that we should’ve made plays on and didn’t, so we faltered a little bit to that point.”
Even though the Balers saw their eight-year run of playoff dominance snapped, all signs point to them being back in the title game again next season. San Benito loses just one senior starter, so it returns a team that should be a year older, and, more important, a year improved.
Smith hopes the loss will sear in the minds of all the returning players.
“I hope the kids remember the score here and come back next year really tenacious and trying to prove something,” he said. “We always say there’s not another team that outworks us, and I still believe that’s true. We work six days a week all year, countless hours, and the kids buy into it and they fight the whole way through. We’ll need to come back with that same attitude.”

Emanuel Lee - Sports Editor
A staff member edited this provided article.

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