STOCKTON – After dropping the first opportunity to clinch the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV crown with a lackluster effort, the Sierra Timberwolves resorted back to their old form, handing Los Banos a 6-0 section shutout to claim the championship Saturday at Arnaiz Field.
Sierra (24-2-1) rode the resilient right arm of freshman standout Allison Walljasper. The Sierra ace twirled seven shutout innings, striking out nine and leading Sierra to its first section title in the program’s history.
“It is no surprise that Ally has been hurt since Nor Cal (Tracy Tournament),” Sierra head coach Nick Olmo said. “I’ve been kind of down playing that, so for her to come out and throw as hard as she did in that second game was just a phenomenal job.
“She just turned 15 this week. It is just amazing what that kid has done.”
Walljasper added a clutch two-RBI single in Sierra’s six-run third, smoking a pitch up the middle to put Sierra up 4-0. Iyana Hughes continued with her clutch play this postseason, going off the rightfield wall for a double and plating the Timberwolves’ first run.
“My mindset was just to try and hit the ball,” Hughes said after the win. “We had runners in scoring position and I just needed to put the ball in play so they could score.”
Hughes’ knock ignited a Sierra club that has only dealt with defeat twice on the season. After Hughes’ hit Walljasper had hers and sophomore Sommer Wilson strolled to the plate for the final blow, belting a towering two-run homerun to left and handing Walljasper enough run support for three games.
“It felt really good because this whole weekend I have really been struggling with my hitting,” Wilson said. “Usually I have a good eye, but lately I was swinging too early and completely missing it. I struck out in my first at bat so I was ready in my second.
“When I got up I just said I have to hit that first pitch, and she threw it and it came right down the middle.”
When the scoreboard read 6-0 it was a safe assumption the Timberwolves would be celebrating their first title. Walljasper’s season was decorated with victory after victory, and after a dismal performance from the Timberwolves in game one, her allowing the lead to disappear was highly unlikely.
Walljasper was likely at her best in the pivotal sixth inning. Los Banos (22-11) got its second and third hits of the game and loaded the bases to muster its first legitimate threat. Walljasper responded with back-to-back strikeouts, cementing Sierra’s name on the blue banner.
“We had a big talk in the outfield after that first game and we said that if we make a mistake, to get off of it and focus on the next play,” Walljasper said. “That is exactly what we did, and we came out stronger in the second game.
“When we got up 4-0 I knew I just had to get us through the last three innings because my arm was killing me.”
Sierra is the first SJS Champion from the Valley Oak League since Oakdale won the Division-III banner in 2006. And with a laundry list of young talent, the Timberwolves should see a chance at another title in the near future.
“After the first loss and we talked to them we could see that they were up,” Olmo said. “We were expecting to see a bunch of heads hanging and disappointment, but they were ready.
“We have had some great teams, but this team is really talented all the way around and they are going to be around for awhile.”