The Score: Cap 5, Santa Catalina 4.
The Star: Capuchino High left fielder Eleni Katout’s sliding catch with two runners on and two outs in the sixth inning of the Central Coast Section Division III championship game saved at least one run and stopped a Santa Catalina rally in its tracks. Katout, whose catch preserved the Mustangs’ 4-2 lead, was also 2 for 3 with a double on Saturday morning at PAL Stadium in San Jose.
The Turning Point: Gabby Tudury punched a check-swing two-RBI single with two outs in the first inning to put Capuchino ahead 3-0, and gave Mustangs the feeling this just might be their day.
The Quote: “That game last year haunted me all season. I knew I had to win this year so I could forget about that game.” -- Capuchino senior pitcher Michele Pilster, on last year’s heartbreaking 2-1 loss in eight innings to Valley Christian in the CCS Division III final, when the Mustangs were an out away from winning their first title in 13 years.
What’s Next? The Mustangs will take some time to savor their title, but before long they’ll be looking for a chance to repeat. They return seven starters and are bringing up some talented up-and-comers that figure to make them early favorites.
The Bottom Line: With memories of last season’s heartbreak, Capuchino exorcised some ghosts with Saturday’s title win. Despite committing four errors, the Mustangs executed some excellent defensive plays that helped them withstand a late-inning Santa Catalina rally. Tack-on runs in the sixth and seventh turned out to be crucial, too.
When a glitch occurred during a recorded playback of the national anthem before Saturday’s Central Coast Section Division III softball final at PAL Stadium in San Jose, a crowd of about 200, along with players on both teams, improvised, singing “and the rockets’ red glare…” and a few more lines after that until the recording resumed.
On a day when Capuchino High committed four errors that nearly enabled a plucky Santa Catalina opponent back in a game it led by four runs in the late innings, the Mustangs had to be equally resourceful.
And in the end, a gritty and determined Capuchino team made the big plays when they counted in a wild 5-4 victory.
The second-seeded Mustangs won their first CCS title since a five-year reign that ended in 1997, as they wiped away memories of last season’s heartbreaking 2-1 loss in eight innings to Valley Christian in a Division III title game in which they were within an out of a 1-0 victory.
“That game last year haunted me all season. I knew I had to win this year so I could forget about that game,” Capuchino senior pitcher Michele Pilster said.
The Mustangs (23-6) set the tone for Saturday’s win when they scored three runs on four straight two-out singles in the top of the first inning. Jennifer Lewis started the rally, and Gabby Tudury finished it when she punched a check-swing two-run single up the middle.
Capuchino extended its lead when Eleni Katout doubled in a run in the sixth, and tacked on one more after Santa Catalina’s two-run sixth on Jennifer Lewis’ run-scoring single that made it 5-2.
From the Mustangs' standpoint, Santa Catalina’s sixth inning could have been much worse.
Top-seeded Santa Catalina (22-4) had the bases loaded with no outs with one run already in when first baseman Tudury fielded a ground ball and elected to tag out the runner for the safe out on a play that allowed a second run.
Then after Pilster got the next batter to fly out to center, left fielder Katout made a sliding basket catch on a short fly ball that stopped the rally in its tracks.
“In the biggest game of the year she makes a sliding catch, that was huge,” said Capuchino coach Todd Grammatico, noting that Katout has been working on the play all season.
“In the beginning of the year, that’s a hit,” he said.
But the Mustangs’ scariest moments were still ahead of them, and memories of last season’s title-game collapse weighed heavily in a white-knuckle seventh.
Santa Catalina closed to within 5-3 on two hits and an error that started the inning, and had runners at first and second with one out.
“It was always in the back of my mind, but I tried not to have it (get) into the front of my mind because I knew if I did was going to lose it,” Pilster said of the 2010 title game.
Pilster, who admitted she’d gotten less than three hours sleep after celebrating graduation the previous night, kept her composure.
She got the next batter to fly out to left.
Santa Catalina’s Rene Kausin followed with a run-scoring single to right, and she tried to sneak into second after the trail runner took third when right fielder Kelly McDaid threw home. Shortstop Lewis caught Kausin’s movement out of the corner of her eye and got to catcher Jamie Navarro’s throw just in time to apply the tag for the final out, sending the Mustangs into jubilation.
But on a day when nothing came easy, even the celebration had its tribulations, with Lewis suffering a knee injury that left her on her back just before the award ceremony.
The severity of the injury wasn’t immediately known, but she was standing up and all smiles savoring the victory a few minutes later.
“It shows that we all have heart,” Lewis said of how her team overcame a furious rally as well as its own blunders.
“We kind of looked back at last year as a learning experience to make us better this year,” she said. “We wanted it more than last year, we wanted it more than the other team.”
And this year, they created some new memories.
“It means everything to me,” Pilster said. “Last year we gave it up in the seventh, this year we did not want to do that at all. They almost came back, but I will always remember this day.”
Capuchino 5, Santa Catalina 4
C -- 300 001 1 – 5 9 4
SC -- 000 002 2 – 4 7 1
WP: Pilster. LP: Pingree.
2B: Katout (C). 3 hits: Wassmer (C). 2 hits: Lewis, Katout (C); Aldrete, Hong, Kausin (SC). 2 RBI: Katout (C); Kausin (SC).
Records: Capuchino 23-6 .Santa Catalina 22-4.