Pleasant Grove senior catcher Amber Murray says there is no secret why Elk Grove-area softball is consistently strong.
"We have a lot of girls who like to play, good coaching, and we perform well," she said.
Eagles coach Chris Murray credits Mary Jo Truesdale, Sheldon's Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame coach, for setting a high standard through the years.
"We've all followed her example," said Chris Murray, Amber's father. "Elk Grove teams have that never-give-up attitude. We're going to fight all seven innings."
Tonight, Pleasant Grove will try to become the eighth consecutive Division I section champion from the Elk Grove Unified School District.
Standing in its way is Vintage of Napa, which entered the playoffs undefeated and nationally ranked before falling 3-1 to the Eagles on Monday.
Pleasant Grove (24-9) beat Bee No. 1 Rocklin 6-4 in Tuesday's winners' bracket game. Vintage (31-1) worked its way back to the finals by topping Elk Grove 10-7 and Rocklin 9-6 in the losers' bracket.
Pleasant Grove, which won its lone section softball title in 2009, has the benefit of having to be beaten twice. It also has history on its side.
"We just hope to represent Elk Grove softball the best we can," Chris Murray said. "Right now I like the way we have been playing. We've played well as a team."
All the ingredients were there in the win over Rocklin.
Junior Celina Matthias struck out nine, allowed six hits and homered. Vanessa Washington and Autumm Miller each had three hits.
The Eagles also exhibited that famed Elk Grove-area mental toughness when Rocklin, trailing 5-1 entering the sixth, scored three times and had the tying run in scoring position with two outs.
But Matthias won the duel with freshman Carli Cutler, who, after fouling off several pitches, struck out.
"You can see her get that fire in her belly," Amber Murray said of Matthias.
Added Chris Murray, "Celina pitched a hell of a game. We kind of got away from the plan with a couple of errors, but Celina came back strong. She didn't need to use her rise ball until the seventh and went one-two-three."
In other highlights Tuesday:
Haley Snyder struck out 15 and tossed a one-hitter, and Christian Brothers scored twice in the top of the 10th on a throwing error and wild pitch to defeat Benicia 3-2 and advance to today's 5 p.m. Division II final against Capital Valley Conference rival Casa Roble.
The teams played to a 1-1 tie through nine innings before going to the international tiebreaker, in which a runner starts the inning at second base. Danielle Kranz had Benicia's hit, a fifth-inning home run.
Antelope rallied for four runs in the sixth on doubles by Emily Mark, Savannah Johnson and Maddie Skibitzki to beat Capital Athletic League rival Cordova 4-3 and advance to today's 5 p.m. Division III final. The Titans will play Pioneer, a 15-4 winner over Cordova.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.