Pioneer softball coach Linda Merrida says her team is a family, and that togetherness helped the Patriots to a Sac-Joaquin Section title.
Pioneer beat Tri-County Conference rival Yuba City 8-1 Wednesday night at the Sacramento Softball Complex for the program’s second consecutive Division III title and third overall. The Patriots won the Division IV crown in 2006.
“They’re a hard-working team and they do what we ask them to do,” Merrida said. “They are a family. That was our motto. A family sticks together through the good and the bad times.”
Pioneer (25-3) didn’t have many bad times this season, especially with workhorse ace Angelica Dark in the circle. The junior gave up just two runs in winning three playoff games and pitched all but two innings this season for the Patriots.
The season also included the program’s signature nonleague victory, 10-7 over Sheldon on April 15.
Madison Bellin went 3 for 4 with a double and scored three runs for Pioneer in the clincher. The junior hit .527 in the regular season.
Fellow junior Rylie Carlier hit .349 and blasted a home run in the semifinals Monday against Yuba City that went an estimated 250 feet. It was her third home run of the playoffs and seventh of the season.
Dark closed the season with a complete game against the Honkers (19-11).
“She’s so important for us,” Merrida said.
For the second consecutive season, Pleasant Grove beat the top-ranked team in the D-I playoffs. But once again, the Eagles lost in the final to that team.
Vacaville (29-1-1), ranked No. 5 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, beat Pleasant Grove 3-0 for the program’s second section title.
The Eagles (26-9-1) forced a winner-take-all game with a 3-2 victory over the Bulldogs highlighted by Celina Matthias’ solo homer.
Last season, Pleasant Grove beat Vintage of Napa but lost to the Crushers in the decisive game.
“(Vacaville) is a phenomenal team,” Pleasant Grove co-coach Bob Book said. “It felt good giving them the first loss and forcing the finals. But, unfortunately, we didn’t score in the finals.”
Pleasant Grove’s Vanessa Washington hit 15 home runs this season, including a solo shot against Vacaville on Monday. The Delaware State commit holds the section large-school record for home runs in a season.
“This season was so much fun,” Washington said. “These girls are my best friends and this was the most fun I’ve had.”
Del Campo forced a winner-take-all final with a 6-2 victory over Benicia before falling 4-2.
Led by freshman pitcher Brooke Larsen, the Cougars (25-8) won the Capital Valley Conference with a young nucleus that coach Sharon Props expects to contend for a title next season.
“I’m so proud of these girls,” Props said. “They fought so hard. It was a tough season and they battled with tenacity. This was a special team.”
Benicia (18-5) beat two other CVC playoff teams, Casa Roble and Bella Vista, to claim the program’s first section title.