Shelby Cefalu’s defiance paid off for East Union on Tuesday.
She prefers to call it ‘senior privilege.’
Her massive three-run homer in the fifth inning helped double the Lancers’ lead against host Manteca, and they coasted to an 8-0 Valley Oak League victory that sets up their rematch with unbeaten Oakdale.
East Union (9-1 VOL, 14-8 overall) looked to expand on its 3-0 lead heading into the fifth, wary of its rival’s ability to score runs in bunches. Chloe Agueda (3 for 3, double, walk) and Mackenzie Salgado drilled back-to-back singles ahead of the Dominican University-bound Cefalu, who took a mighty swing on the first pitch from Alyssah Harnden.
Cefalu reacted soon after contact and watched as the ball bounced once off the roof of a classroom building beyond the left-field fence and drop to the other side. Two batters later, Danyelle Godoy tagged a line-drive shot for a solo bomb to right.
It may not have worked out that way for the Lancers had Cefalu listened to her coach, Brian Goulart.
“Coach G told me to take a first-pitch strike and I told him ‘no’ — senior privilege,” Cefalu said. “I said that usually the first pitch is right down the middle, so he said OK go after it. We were still up but we needed more. I knew I needed to get that for the team. I knew it was gone, right off the bat.”
Cefalu finished 2 for 3 with three runs scored. She earlier plated the first run after doubling in the second inning. Allie Parker cracked a two-run single to get East Union on board.
Danielle Ramos, also heading to Dominican, made it 3-0 an inning later with a two-out, infield single. Bradee Jeffery knocked in the final run with a pinch-hit single in the seventh.
“Just getting ready for Oakdale,” Cefalu said. The state-ranked Mustangs (22-0-1) — CalHiSports has them slotted at No. 12 in its top-25 poll — visit Northgate Softball Complex on Thursday.
East Union put together a complete effort against Manteca (6-5, 11-11), which is positioned well for one of the VOL’s four Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berths. Senior pitcher Hayley Leonard scattered seven hits and walked none in the shutout, striking out six in the process.
Goulart said Leonard’s emergence this season has been key in his club rounding into form. Cefalu, who started out as the Lancers’ full-time ace pitcher, is seeing more time at first base in recent weeks and raking at the plate.
The defense as a while didn’t commit an error behind Leonard.
“We like Shelby at first because she plays well defensively, plus she swings the bat better when she’s not pitching,” Goulart said. “I think we have found our niche as a defensive team, and Hayley really opened up some opportunities for us. I like what we’re doing right now. It’s clicking.”
The Buffaloes did have opportunities throughout, getting runners on base in every inning but the third. Isabella Gonzales led off the home half of the first with a single but was left stranded. Kalissa Martin went 3 for 3 and slugged a one-out double to deep left in the seventh.
“We just can’t get a clutch moment for anything right now,” Buffaloes coach Josh Farrish sad. “We had runners on base all day, we just couldn’t get the big hit. That was the story of the game.
“They had the big home run and a couple two-out hits. Tip your hat to them, they got it done.”
Manteca caps its regular-season schedule Thursday at Kimball and can secure its spot in the playoffs with a win.
East Union 19, Manteca 1
The Lancers (9-0, 23-4) have secured at least a share of the VOL championship.
Marissa Carranza pitched all five innings and struck out five. She was also 2 for 3 with two RBIs at the plate. Savannah Wilkerson went 3 for 3 with a double and two RBIs. Andrea Smith also had three hits, a double and two RBIs.