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ODDBALLS

Sierra seizes 4th section banner since 2011

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ODDBALLS

Sierra standout pitcher Lindsey Walljasper winds up from the circle.

Photos by WAYNE THALLANDER/


POSTED May 27, 2017 2:02 a.m.

STOCKTON — Sierra’s odd-year magic has yet to wear off, and with only two of its players graduating the Timberwolves may not have to wait until 2019 to capture another Sac-Joaquin Section championship.
Seeded sixth, they completed their undefeated run through the Division IV bracket Friday with a 7-1 victory over No. 2 Calaveras at Arnaiz Softball Complex. The program is 4 for 5 in section title-round appearances since claiming its first banner in 2011, winning the next three every other year while placing no worse than third in between.
Head coach Victor DeAnda has been part of all four championship runs, the first two as an assistant under Nick Olmo.
“This one right here, we had to really work hard when it comes to coaching,” DeAnda said. Assistant coach Troy Walljasper was also on the staff for all four. “I don’t like to use the freshman (excuse), I believe that once they hit varsity they’re considered varsity players, but there was still a lot they had to learn. They’ve come so far.”
Sierra (16-9) had just four returning players to start the season and four freshmen were inserted into the starting lineup. Seniors Kiara Baleva and Legacy Barnes and junior pitching ace Lindsey Walljasper were contributors on the last section championship team in 2015. Barnes and Walljasper’s older sisters Lexus and Allie, respectively, made up Sierra’s battery in 2011 and 13.
Baleva said it was important to her to go out as a champion.
“I wanted it so bad,” she said roughly 24 hours after graduation. “Last night was great, but this is what I was really looking forward to. That’s all I was thinking about was today.”
And what a day it was for the leadoff hitter. It was fittingly she who drove in the game’s first run and the last two. Barnes (two walks, run) led off the Timberwolves’ three-run rally in the top of the second with a walk, and Baleva (2 for 4, three RBIs) later knocked in Desiree Mejias (three runs) with a single down the third-base line.
Lisette Mejias then scored on Mia Guevara’s sacrifice fly to right, and freshman catcher Samantha Lorge (2 for 4) capped it off with an RBI single.
Sierra missed an earlier opportunity to break it open, leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. Nicole Gardner was called out on runner’s interference when she was struck by Summer Ludwig’s batted ball while making her way to second base.
The Timberwolves tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the sixth inning, with Guevara lacing a run-scoring hit and plating the other on a fielding error.
The team was productive despite Calaveras intentionally walking hot-swinging Lindsey Walljasper four times. Sierra doled out seven hits and was aided by four errors. Five of Sierra’s runs were scored by the final three batters in the order.
“The whole week the girls were very consistent 1 through 9,” DeAnda said. “We only had one girl strike out tonight, so it shows that we were able to make contact throughout the lineup. It took a whole team effort tonight.”
Calaveras (26-5) was held to just five hits by Walljasper, getting its lone run with Madison Wyllie’s towering homer to left in the bottom of the fourth. MacKenna Steele (2 for 4) tripled in the first and Kayla Kappmeyer drilled a double in the third but were left stranded.
“It was just one pitch at a time, I wasn’t really stressing,” Walljasper said. “It happens, I just had to work through it.”
The Nebraska commit finished with seven strikeouts, walked three and hit two. She ended the game in style, blowing a riseball past clean-up batter Alanda Cardon.
Walljasper had a good feeling about her team’s chances heading into the postseason. Sierra started out its 2017 campaign losing five of its first six contests.
“We’re a different team than we were at the beginning,” she said. “I’m just really proud of the way we pulled through and came together. We had a lot of new players come in and now these girls are like family to me.”

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