Orange Cove High School’s Alexis Garcia may have been wearing down in 90-degree heat at Margie Wright Diamond on Saturday, but she didn’t wilt.
She had a shutout for six innings before gladly settling for a 7-2 win over Parlier as the top-seeded Titans repeated as Central Section Division VI softball champions.
As a freshman.
Section championship. Big crowd. In a college stadium.
“Yeah, I felt it,” she said after closing her season with a 15-4 record. “But I couldn’t show it because I came out for my team.”
She awoke Saturday morning with her stomach tied in knots: “I was very excited and nervous; mostly excited.”
Excitement found Orange Cove four-year starter Valerie Rodriguez burning the bases for an inside-the-park home run, giving the Titans (22-5) a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
And what a stage to hit the first homer of her life, when she followed the directions of third-base coach Jacob Del Bosque, who windmilled her home.
“He said, ‘You better speed up; you’ve got the hot wheels,’ ” she said. “I gave it my all. My first home run – inside-the-park, outside-the-park, never – so I’m really proud of that one.”
The two-day, six-game section finals were moved to Fresno State from traditional campus sites, and that’s the indelible memory Rodriguez took home to the tiny community in southeast Fresno County.
In addition to another section plaque, of course.
“This was a lifetime experience,” she said after singling, stealing a base and scoring three times from the leadoff slot. “I enjoyed it so much, the view, the energy. It was amazing.”
Orange Cove took advantage of three errors by second-seeded Parlier (14-12) to take a 2-0 lead after two innings.
The Titans began to run away with a three-run fifth, featuring Rodriguez’s single, Sophia Del Bosque’s sacrifice bunt that resulted in an error, Shantae Gutierrez’s RBI triple and Stephanie Lopez’s run-scoring single.
The Panthers, seeking their first section title in softball, scored in the seventh on Ivanna Allaneda’s double, Ayanna Chavez’s RBI single and Sidney Cisneros’ run-scoring double.
Orange Cove 7, Parlier 2
Orange Cove (22-5)
WP: Alexis Garcia (15-4, CG). LP: Amanda Beltran (12-10, CG). P, Amanda Beltran 2B; Alisha Beltran 2-3, SB; Ivanna Avellaneda 2B, R; Ayanna Chavez RBI 1B; Sidney Cisneros 2-3, 2B, RBI. OC, Valerie Rodriguez 2-4, 3R, HR; Sophia Del Bosque 2B, R; Shantae Gutierrez 2-3, 2 3B, 2R, RBI; Stephanie Lopez 2-3, R, RBI.