Haybalers a win away from CCS title

The San Benito High softball team celebrates after a 11-1 mercy-rule win over Leigh on Wednesday in the CCS playoff semifinals. Photo by Robert Eliason.

For the San Benito High softball team to win its first Central Coast Section championship since the 2016 season, it will need to go through West Catholic League team Presentation. The No. 2 seed Haybalers advanced with a 11-1, mercy-rule win over No. 3 Leigh on Wednesday in a Division II semifinal. Presentation reached the title game with a 8-0 win over Santa Teresa. The teams meet today at 4pm at Ray Barragan Stadium for the championship.

“They’re very good,” Balers coach Andrew Barragan said. “But I’m confident in our team. It’s always a good battle with the West Catholic schools, and what better setting than Hollister versus a West Catholic team.”

Playing loose and relaxed, San Benito (13-5) jumped on Leigh early with two runs in the bottom of the first inning when Giana Perez ripped a line drive all the way to the fence in left-center for a double. Perez later added a two-run single to give her a total of four RBIs. 

“The biggest star out there was Giana Perez,” Barragan said. “She hit the (crap) out of the ball today, and the key for us is we finally had that lineup where we were able to set the table up for her. She’s had a shoulder injury so that’s why she’s always my DP (designated player) or DH if you will. Obviously the shoulder is getting a little healthier now so you can see balls are starting to carry off her bat. She’s peaked at the right time and is in midseason form right now.”

Sophia Mariottini got the job done yet again, pitching the full five innings and allowing five hits and one run. She had an 11-pitch inning in the second inning and a seven-pitch inning in the fifth for her second win in as many playoff starts. Wednesday’s game was never close. 

After taking a 2-0 lead in the first inning, the Balers erupted for six more runs in the second, highlighted by Shanelle Cavazos’ two-run single that made it 7-0. Everyone in the starting lineup got on base at least once. Leadoff hitter Maddie Bermudez, who was coming off a breakout performance in the quarterfinal round, followed that up with another tremendous game.

She reached base every time up to bat, drawing walks in her first three plate appearances and reaching on an error in her final at-bat. She scored three times as did Lindsay Platero, who was utilized as a pinch runner. Kaiya Dickens had a single and a walkoff triple with no outs in the bottom of the fifth inning that scored Laila Rueda, inducing the mercy rule. 

San Benito’s dugout was as lively as it’s been all season, a byproduct of the team doing an outing the previous day. Before Tuesday’s practice, they gathered at the Granada Theatre to watch the Women’s College World Series. 

“They saw the dugouts and the energy and knew they had to bring the same level of energy,” Barragan said. “It goes back to keeping loose, staying relaxed, having fun and playing good ball.”

Barragan said he will keep the same routine for Thursday: do some batting practice in the morning with music blaring in the background and eating ice cream afterward. 

“It’s just relaxing and sets the tone for the girls,” Barragan said.

Maddie Bermudez is all focus as she prepares to get a jump off second base. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Recent SBHS graduate Kaiya Dickens smashes a single during the Balers’ 11-1 win over Leigh. Photo by Robert Eliason.