Aaliyah Cuevas, whose admitted recent struggles with the bat led to an admitted poor decision by coach Judy Shaubach to end the seventh inning, delivered a second straight Central Section Division II softball title to Madera High.
Cuevas ran through Shaubach’s stop sign to open the bottom of the eighth inning with what was ruled by the official scorer as an inside-the-park home run, lifting the top-seeded Coyotes over No. 2 Monache 4-3 on Friday at Margie Wright Diamond. It was the Coyotes’ third section title overall, the first coming in 1989.
“When I hit it I knew it was going to get behind (the fielder) and I had to somehow make it home,” Cuevas said. “I had to do something to get us a score.
“I knew it was the perfect chance to make it home. I tried to make a run off her error because that’s what softball’s about, and that’s how we win.”
Cuevas, a sophomore who was hitless in her previous seven at-bats, ripped the hardest hit ball all night off Monache pitcher Chloe Rivas over right fielder Jenna Reyes’ head and to the fence. Reyes fired to second baseman Evette Mendoza, who threw to third baseman Chelsea Ramos after Cuevas rounded the bag.
But with Shaubach holding up the stop sign, Cuevas keep running and beat the throw from Ramos to catcher Jasmin Castillo.
“I had the stop sign up, but she said she saw something I didn’t see, so hey, if you can win a Valley championship, you can forgive them (running through) the stop sign,” Shaubach said.
Madera had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh, but Monache center fielder Sequoia Brewer, playing shallow and into the left-center gap, threw out Tea Layne at the plate on Daisha Ricks’ two-out single.
Shaubach said she sent Layne against her better judgment because Cuevas, the next batter, had been struggling at the plate.
“I hadn’t been doing very good, so I knew I had to wait for a pitch,” Cuevas said. “I feel so good. Just knowing I was able to help my team win another Valley is the best thing. This is my family. We worked so hard for this. I knew I had to give back to them.”
Madera (26-7) fought back to tie the score twice.
Monache (25-6) went ahead 2-0 in the top of the fourth, getting an RBI single from Brewer and a run-scoring groundout from Vanessa Mendoza.
The Coyotes tied it up in the bottom of the fourth, courtesy of a pair of two-out Marauders errors.
First, Monache’s center fielder failed to secure the final out on a fly ball hit to her left off the bat of Emily Chavira. Then, Kaylee Dawson hit a slicing liner that glanced off the first baseman’s glove for a triple down the right-field line. A wild relay throw into the infield allowed Dawson to score.
The Marauders, who were seeking their second section title, went back up 3-2 in the fifth when Jessenia Castillo tripled and scored on Rivas’ single.
But the Coyotes tied it again in the bottom half as Mikayla Ruiz walked, stole second and scored on a throwing error off a ball hit by Daisha Ricks.
“This team has tons of fight in it,” Shaubach said. “It looked like at the beginning of the game everything was going their way. They were making great defensive plays and their pitcher was giving a superb performance. But I told the kids to keep patient and put the ball in play. We put the ball in play, we make things happen.”
Shaubach also lauded the performance of Coyotes sophomore pitcher Destiny Ricks, who played through a badly sprained ankle suffered in practice before the start of the postseason.
Ricks struck out seven and held Monache scoreless over the final three innings, giving her team a chance to rally.
“I can’t say enough about her competitive spirit,” Shaubach said. “That girl was nails today. Absolute nails.”
Madera nearly won it in the bottom of the seventh, but Brewer, the Monache center fielder, playing shallow and into the left-center gap, threw out Tea Layne at the plate on Ricks’ two-out single.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect official scorer’s ruling on Aaliyah Cuevas’ winning hit as an inside-the-park home run, rather than a triple and an error.
Madera 4, Monache 3, 8 innings
WP: Destiny Ricks (7Ks). LP: Chloe Rivas (5Ks). Mo, Jenna Reyes 2-5; Jessenia Castillo 2-4, 3B, R; Rivas 1-3, RBI; Chelsea Ramos 2-5, R; Jasmin Castillo 2-5; Cianna Correa 2-4; Sequoia Brewer 1-4; Vanessa Mendoza RBI. Ma, Aaliyah Cuevas 1-3, HR, R, RBI; Kaylee Dawson 1-3, RBI; Tea Layne 1-3; Haley Perez 1-3; Mikayla Perez 1-2, R; Daisha Ricks 1-3.
Central Section Softball championships: Day 2
Saturday at Fresno State’s Margie Wright Diamond
▪ Division I: No. 1 Buchanan vs. No. 2 Clovis, 7 p.m.
▪ D-III: No. 2 Hanford vs. No. 8 Independence, 2 p.m.
▪ D-IV: No. 1 Selma vs. No. 2 Mission Oak, 11:30 a.m.
▪ D-VI: No. 1 Orange Cove vs. No. 2 Parlier, 4:30 p.m.