Before Iyana Hughes’ heroic base hit lifted Sierra High’s softball team to win a 2-1 Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoff game against Central Catholic, it took a heroic effort from four Manteca Unified groundskeepers to get the school’s varsity field in playing shape Wednesday.
Sierra groundskeepers Carlos Cabello and Mike Bennett, with help from John Lopez and Sean Sellers of East Union, took on the task of drying up the turf and chalking up the lines on short notice.
“I didn’t think there was any way possible,” Sierra athletic director Greg Leland said. “I got a hold of one of our groundskeepers and he said they could do it.”
Except for the out-bracket game between Central Catholic and Liberty Ranch Monday, all other SJS Division-IV contests are supposed to take place at Arnaiz Softball Complex this week in Stockton.
At around 9 Wednesday morning, section assistant commissioner John Williams informed athletic directors of qualifying schools that the games will be rescheduled for today due to rain. First-round contests will start at 3, with the winners competing again at 7 to kick off double-elimination play.
Word eventually got to Sierra players at school that the game was called off. Not long after that, Leland ran into pitcher Allison Walljasper and informed her that it may go on after all.
Central Catholic requested for its game to still be played Wednesday because the school’s senior trip is tonight.
“We were excited,” she said. “We really wanted to come out and play this game today.”
Williams contacted Leland, who initially had trouble getting a hold of Coach Nick Olmo. By noon, both sides had agreed to play the game at Sierra, and race against time was on.
The groundskeepers went to work, pumping out water and using 10 bags of DrySore borrowed from Manteca High. They got a boost from Mother Nature, as the sun and wind helped dry the field faster.
“I got to the field at about a quarter till 3 and I said, ‘No way. How’d they do that?’” Olmo said. “I was impressed. I couldn’t expect anything better than this. The field is perfect.
“When I drove past while on my way to work this morning the field looked horrible, but they got it ready within 2 ½ to 3 hours.”
The game was scheduled to start at 5, but the first pitch was thrown about 15 minutes earlier.
“It’s unbelievable how they got it done so quickly,” Leland said. “We had a 5 o’clock start time just because we thought we needed the extra time, but the game could have started at 4.”