STOCKTON — Wednesday marked the end of an era for Sierra High’s softball team.
The Timberwolves captured their fifth Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV crown in eight years, toppling top-seeded Calaveras 3-1 at Arnaiz Softball Complex.
It’s the second straight year that Sierra has defeated Calaveras — which needed to beat the T’wolves twice for the title — in the final round, and the five championships are the most in the section for the division.
No. 2 Sierra (19-4) capped off its latest banner season — including a Valley Oak League co-championship — on a 12-game win streak while claiming 17 of its final 18. Victor DeAnda has been part of the Timberwolves’ successful run, serving the last three as their head coach and the previous six as an assistant.
It turns out Wednesday’s contest will be his last with Sierra.
“It’s a great way to go out,” DeAnda said. “I can’t ask for anything better from these kids and I’m just thankful for everything they’ve done for this team.”
The game is also the last for the Walljasper family. Nebraska-bound ace pitcher Lindsey Walljasper has captured three section titles, and older sister Allie Walljasper — now starring in the circle for No. 12 LSU — helped Sierra secure its first two in 2011 and 2013.
“It feels amazing,” Lindsey Walljasper said. “This is every person’s dream right here coming out of high school and going into college. I’m wish my sister was here with me but I’m rooting for her in the (NCAA) Super Regional.”
Walljasper and the defense got Sierra out of some tough situations throughout the contest, but No. 8 hitter Tierra Solario was the hero offensively. It was her two-run single to left that gave the Timberwolves the lead for of the fourth inning, plating Lisette Mejias (singled) and Elizabeth Kehle (fielder’s choice).
“I knew I had two (strikes) so I had to get a hit,” Solario said. “Usually I’m the one that drag bunts to move the runners, so needing to get the hit I was a little nervous.”
Callie Crain, who accounted for two of Sierra’s four hits, led off the inning with the first knock of the game for the Timberwolves. She eventually scored the tying run on an errant throw to third in a force-out attempt.
They had a chance to break it open in the fourth with the bases loaded, two outs and No. 3 batter Samantha Lorge at the plate, but her well-hit shot was run down by Calaveras left fielder Coco Bolin. In the previous inning, she smashed a deep flyball to the warning track that was caught in right-center field.
Sierra could not generate much offense against Calaveras’ pitching tandem of Jodi McNair (3 1/3 innings, three hits, two walks) and reliever Kacie Cosgrove (3 2/3 innings, two walks, one hit). Walljasper reached in all four of her plate appearances, drawing three walks (two intentional) and getting hit once.
Calaveras (25-5) opened scoring in the top of the third. MacKenna Steele reached on an infield error and scored on Keelie Koepp’s groundout. Calaveras loaded the bases with one out, but Walljasper was able to limit the damage thanks to a double play turned by catcher Lorge, who caught Madison Wyllie’s botched bunt attempt in the air and forced out a runner at third.
“That’s how we’ve been playing this whole tournament,” DeAnda said. “We haven’t been playing too great, but we’ve been in these situations. They did not quit and gave everything they had today.”
Walljasper’s numbers may be pedestrian — six strikeouts, four walks, five hits (three infield singles) — compared to some of her past big-game efforts, but she had other big moments. Calaveras threatened in the sixth with another bases-loaded, one-out situation, and Walljasper struck out the next two batters.
She gave up a one-out single to Steele in the seventh and relied on the defense to end the threat — and the game. Alexis Dawe lined out to shortstop Mia Guevarra, who then doubled off Steele with the force-out throw to first.
“This girl is just unbelievable,” DeAnda said. “When we get into those situations she doesn’t break. She finds something inside her and comes up clutch every time.”
Sierra’s perfect run through the tournament was far from perfect. The Timberwolves overcame early deficits to knock off No. 7 Ripon and No. 6 Kimball and squeaked out a 2-1 victory over No. 2 Rosemont despite base-running and defensive miscues.
“All of these games have been close and there are some super good teams out here,” Walljasper said. “We just kept saying one hit at a time, one pitch at a time and one out at a time and that’s exactly what we did tonight.
“If we’re beating teams like this at our worse just imagine the best. Everything just came into place when we needed it.”