Softball Season Ends with Thrilling NCS Playoff Game

Acalanes Dons Softball fell behind early and despite a valiant effort to come back, the Dons lost in the first round of the NCS playoffs 4-3 to the Encinal Jets on Tuesday, May 16th in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd.  This game was a rematch from earlier in the season and from the first pitch it was obvious that both teams had improved dramatically since their early season matchup.  

There were some early game jitters in the top of the first, and Encinal was able to capitalize by scoring 2 runs to take the early lead 2-0.   The Dons dug deep to make sure the game did not get out of hand, as Seniors SS Hailey Stripling and 2B Emmi Cronin both easily handled some ground balls while starting pitcher Maya Shoenhair was able to strikeout the final batter of the inning with the bases loaded to end the inning. 

The Dons came up in the bottom half looking to immediately get back into the game, and Stripling went for the long ball and delivered with a towering home run to right center field for her team leading 5th home run of the season.  

Dons Celebrate Senior Hailey Stripling’s Home Run!

Then with 2 outs, the Dons got a rally going with 1B Tess Gundacker battling for a walk, followed by a single from Cronin to get two runners on base.  Unfortunately the Dons could not convert the opportunity and the score was now 2-1 going to the second inning.

Shoenhair came back out for the second inning and settled into the game, a 1-2-3 inning and momentum starting to swing back to the home team.  Shoenhair battled all day, throwing a complete game going seven innings, allowing four runs, only two walks and striking out two.

Complete Game for Freshman Pitcher Maya Shoenhair

The Encinal pitcher was also settling in and began to pound the strike zone and kept the Dons from generating anything at the plate.   She did not allow a baserunner in the second and third innings, although there were a few unfortunate plays that did not go the way of the home team.   

Meanwhile, the Jets manufactured a run in the 3rd and another in the top of the 5th to take a 4-1 lead and Head Coach Victor Silva sparked the Dons by reminding them that they had 9 outs to get back into the game.   The pep talk worked and got the Dons going in the bottom of the 5th.   Shoenhair led things off with a bunt single that was thrown into right field.  3B Avery Robb then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Shoenhair to 3rd.   With 2 outs, the fighting spirit of these Dons came out.  Emme Young walked.  Stripling was then intentionally walked to load the bases for C Esa Orman, one of the NCS leaders all season in RBIs.  

Sophomore Esa Orman Getting Ready to Drive In More Runs!

Big mistake by the Jets as Orman made them pay and drove in 2 runs on a single up the middle with Young flying by the catcher to avoid the tag at the plate to make the game 4-3, the Dons now just down by 1 run going to the 6th inning.   

Sophomore Emme Young Flies into Home Plate to Score!

Dons Defense was stellar all game for the Dons, particularly the play from the outfielders.  CF Young made several highlight catches, including running down one flyout at the wall.   LF Lulu Levy played her best defensive game of the season and also made an incredible running catch.   RF Lauren Foster made several great plays in addition to her own diving grab for an out in the top of the seventh.   Orman was a wall behind the plate, and the infield turned a critical double play to end the 5th inning, Cronin to Stripling to Gundacker.  And yet, in the 6th inning a pair of Dons Sophomore Superstars teamed up to make the defensive play of the game.  Runners on 1st and 2nd, with 2 outs, the Jets #3 hitter singled a ball up the middle and Young charged the ball and fired a one hop laser to Orman who deftly caught the ball and applied the tag to get the third out at home plate.  

The Dons carried the momentum in the bottom half of the 6th inning.  Levy got things going by drawing a walk, then Shoenhair crushed a double over the left fielder’s head to put runners at second and third with one out.  Unfortunately for the Dons, they could not get the runners home. 

After a 1,2,3 top of the 7th, the Dons were down to their last inning to try and tie the game.  Stripling was able to get a single and advance all the way to third.  However, she would not be able to get home and the Dons lost a thrilling playoff game that sadly ended their season.  

Fighting all the way to the end, getting the tying run to 3rd base in the last two innings, these Dons have a lot to be proud of this year!  And one more final shoutout and salute to our incredible seniors, Sophia Alvarado, Emmi Cronin, Tess Gundacker and Hailey Stripling.   

Go Dons!