The Hollister High softball team celebrates a 4-1 win over Mitty in the CCS Open Division semifinals Tuesday at Los Gatos High. The No. 2 seed Haybalers take on top seed St. Francis in Saturday's title game. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

By design, the Hollister High softball team has a clipping of last year’s season-ending, 14-1 mercy-rule loss to Mitty in its home stadium storage container. 

So, every time they open it up, they’re reminded of that result. Now, the Haybalers can replace that clipping with a different one. 

Hollister 4, Mitty 1. 

The No. 3 seed Haybalers pulled away from the No. 2 seed Monarchs in a Central Coast Section Open Division semifinal at Los Gatos High on May 23. Hollister (26-3) advances to the championship contest against top seed St. Francis (26-2) on Saturday attempting to win the 12th section title in its illustrious history.

In beating Mitty, the Haybalers not only avenged last year’s playoff loss but a 3-2 defeat when the teams matched up just a month ago. 

“The girls don’t forget from last year or this year,” Balers coach Andrew Barragan said. “So it’s a huge win not only for the team but for the community of Hollister. It’s always good to come and beat a West Catholic Athletic League team. It’s hard to come by.”

No kidding. Softball teams from the WCAL have established themselves as the best teams in the CCS in the last several years, with St. Francis and Mitty being the latest private powers to rule the roost. However, the proud Hollister program backs down from no one and now has an opportunity to win its first Open Division championship in school history.  

They got there with another sterling performance from ace Sophia Mariottini, who allowed just one run and five hits against a potent Mitty lineup in a complete-game effort. The senior pounded the outside corner and once she had the Mitty hitters looking away, Mariottini utilized her curveball to keep them off-balance. 

“Her curveball was her money pitch,” Barragan said. “Sophie was dialed in and on point.”

Mitty was up 1-0 and in position to win when Hollister scored four runs in the decisive sixth inning. In the ultimate sign of respect, freshman phenom Taylor Faga was intentionally walked to lead off the inning, putting a baserunner on immediately. 

Mia Philips, a Cal-commit, hit a ground ball for what looked to be a sure fielder’s choice out at second. However, a hustling Faga somehow managed to beat the throw which was key to the inning. Dom Oliveira followed with a sharp single to right, but the ball got away from the Mitty outfielder and it went all the way to the fence, allowing two runs to score. 

Oliveira advanced all the way to third base on the hit and error and scored when Hannah Sanchez smashed a double off the fence in left field. Two batters later, Lauryn McShane hit a run-scoring single to cap the mini uprising. McShane had two of the team’s seven hits to continue her tremendous season. 

Faga was intentionally walked three times after she roped a double off the fence in left-center field in the first inning. Both teams committed two errors each, but it was Mitty’s mistakes that cost runs. Hollister also made a combination of terrific defensive stops and fundamental plays from the likes of Grace Peffley, Laila Rueda and Ashlee Io. 

“Just the little things like Grace Peffley twice keeping girls at first base [after a hit] when it should’ve been a double,” Barragan said. “Those were huge [to prevent potential runs from scoring].”

Barragan knew the team was up to beat Mitty after an impressive 7-1 win over a strong Capuchino High team in the opening round. 

“The girls were loose all week and that’s when they play their best,” he said. “I knew the girls were good right after that game. Just to have that swagger all week, that’s what carried them over here.”

Now the greatest challenge awaits: a game against St. Francis, the defending CIF NorCal Open Division champion and a team that beat Hollister 8-0 earlier this season. 

“They weren’t afraid of Mitty at all, and we’re certainly not afraid of St. Francis because we remember that first game,” Barragan said. 

Sophia Mariottini delivers a pitch during her complete-game, five-hitter in a 4-1 win over Mitty. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Dominique Oliveira is pumped after she advanced to third base on a single and Mitty error which led to two runs being scored as part of Hollister’s big four-run sixth inning. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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