Phenomenal sophomore pitcher Johanna Grauer dominated all game long for Amador Valley High, but James Logan High somehow found a way to score and then hold on for an amazing 1-0 victory in the NCS Division I softball championship on Friday evening.
Center fielder Marissa Perez threw a strike home to cut down the tying run at the plate for the final out and the Colts preserved an upset of the nationally ranked Dons to win the softball crown at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.
Led by Grauer, Amador Valley came into the title game 26-0 on the season and riding a 38-game winning streak and looking to repeat as the NCS champions. The Dons were ranked among the top three teams in the nation in several polls.
Logan High finished its championship season 24-1, its only loss 2-0 to Amador Valley in March.
On Friday, Grauer looked untouchable most of the afternoon, striking out 17 in seven innings and had allowed only one hit going into the top of the seventh. But a high flyball that Raeann Garza, Logan’s pitcher, hit on an 0-2 count with two outs fell behind Amador's left fielder for an RBI double that scored the game’s only run.
Jazmine “Jazzy” Reed, Logan’s No. 3 hitter, had led off the inning with a solid single up the middle for only the Colts’ second hit. Two strikeouts later, Reed was still at first base but was running on contact when Garza lofted the high fly, and Reed flew home easily once the ball fell.
Still, Amador Valley, which won the pregame coin toss before the game and got to bat last, fought back hard against Garza in the Dons’ final at-bat, coming up with three solid hits.
But the final one, a single by Zoe Price, came with two outs and runners on first and second, and Perez in center field was undeterred.
“I’m glad I practiced it a hundred times,” the senior Perez said. “I just tried to stay relaxed and took my time on the throw. I think about what I want to do with the ball before it comes to me.”
Catcher Caley Bonansea caught the strong throw and blocked and tagged the Dons’ Ashley Lotoszynski, trying to score from second on a hook slide to the outside of the plate.
“I never had any doubt that my center fielder would put it right on the money,” Bonansea said. “I was just waiting for the ball. I knew she was would be coming. I saw her in the corner of my eye. Then I just waited for the ball, caught it and then dived on her.”
Despite the circumstances of the play, the Colts’ catcher viewed it as “routine.”
“It’s just what we practiced,” the junior catcher said.
Logan coach Teri Johnson, still hyped up several minutes afterward, said, “We knew that we had to play flawless defense if we were going to have a chance. We knew exactly where they liked to hit it. We had our fielders right where they needed to be.”
She said her coaches had talked to the players before the game “where we had to play to throw the runner out at the plate.”
It worked out for Logan, as pitcher Garza (21-1) completed a shutout despite striking out only one batter and giving up seven hits in seven innings.
Lotoszynski, Amador’s cleanup hitter, had led off the inning with a single to center field, capping a 10-pitch duel after hitting a couple of long foul balls down the left side. Grauer then followed by rapping a hard single on the first pitch between third and shortstop into left field.
Garza, though shaky in the final inning, said, “I still feel good because we were able to get three outs despite them starting the inning with two hits. It just shows our great defense.”
But in between those two hits and the final one, followed by Perez’s huge throw, Garza retired two batters on popups.
Amador Valley’s Lotoszynski said of the final play: “I was just trying to find a way to win.” On the throw beating her, she added, “I was a little upset, but it was a great play, and I tip my hat to her.”
Amador Valley coach Julie Marshall said, Lotoszynski “is a real aggressive player and got a great jump on the play. You have to send her in that situation. But the girl (Perez) just made a great throw.”
Johnson praised highly, of course, the sophomore Grauer.
“Johanna was pretty phenomenal,” Marshall said. “You get 16 or 17 strikeouts and not get the win. That hardly ever happens. She’s so much better than last season. It will be interesting to see what she can accomplish the next couple of years.”
The Amador Valley coach conceded there is always some pressure defending a title but said she didn’t feel it affected her team Friday. “I felt my girls were very calm today. We just didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Marshall said.
Johnson, pointing out that Garza threw 140 pitches on Wednesday in a 3-1 victory over California High in the semifinals, said her pitcher “threw her heart out.”