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December 8, 2022

Cougars crush Soquel to capture SCCAL title | High school softball

SLV’s offense dismantles Knights in tense season-finale showdown

The San Lorenzo Valley High softball team went into last week’s season-finale against Soquel High with a shot of bringing back home a Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League championship.

It was a championship run that senior Erika Kindred was part of three years ago but celebrated it from the sidelines with a knee injury. 

This year she was able to rush the middle of the infield with her teammates after the Cougars crushed the Knights, 13-4, while clinching the SCCAL title for the first time since the 2018-19 season. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” Kindred said. 

With an ACL injury disrupting her freshman year, followed by two seasons under restrictive Covid-19 protocols, Kindred said getting to play a full season during her senior year has meant the world to her.

“Our team has always had a ton of potential,” she said. “We are always really good, we’re always fighting hard.”

Fellow junior teammate Amelia Sizemore threw a complete game in the circle, giving up four hits and three walks while recording five strikeouts.

“It was a huge win for us,” she said.

SLV coach Mark Brown said he was proud of the way Sizemore progressed during the season, overcoming an early injury to find her stride and perform in one of the most important games of the season.

Brown said her accuracy allows her to control the game and create an effective partnership with catcher Olivia Renouf.

“[Amelia] is a workhorse,” Brown said, “She does a good job of fighting through and putting the ball where the catchers ask her.”

SLV took a one-run lead in the third after sophomore Alyssa Struthers crossed home plate on a fielder choice by junior Bella Reynolds. 

With bases loaded, the Cougars’ rally was abruptly cut short after Soquel catcher Ellie Escalante picked off Renouf at first base. 

Soquel took a 2-1 lead in the fourth off a two-run home run by Kiera Mattas. But the lead wouldn’t last long. 

Down by one with the bases loaded in the fifth, Renouf came out swinging on a 3-0 count and cleared the bases with a three-run double. 

Three batters later, with two on, freshman Jori Fields-Rapley hit a three-run homer to give SLV an 8-2 lead heading into the sixth.

Fields-Rapley said he felt a sense of accomplishment to get his first home run of the season in such a crucial moment.

“As a trans person being on this team, it’s really special just when anything happens, any recognition,” Fields-Rapley said. “It’s not talked about a lot and it’s a huge issue for a lot of people, so being included in this team and really feeling like we belong, it’s cool.”

SLV scored five more runs in the seventh with RBI singles from Sizemore, Renouf and Alison Reger, extending the lead to 13-2.

Soquel was able to add two runs in the final frame, but the night ultimately belonged to the prowling Cougars, who celebrated their long-awaited title on the diamond after the final out.

“It’s been a process of learning to play together,” Brown said. “These kids had to learn to be a good team and it all came down to the day.”

With the win, the Cougars finished with a 10-2 record in SCCAL play and shared the league title with Soquel, which also finished 10-2 this season. Both teams split the season series at one game apiece.

The Cougars had already earned their spot in the Central Coast Section playoffs. Yet, they will look to continue the momentum from the victory over the Knights into their postseason journey.

“We’ll re-group, enjoy this one and figure out whatever’s next for us but it certainly was fun along the way,” Brown said.

While the season ended on an amazing high note for the Cougars, by no means was it an easy journey getting to this point.

With a large group of underclassmen, they struggled to mesh early on with the varying ages of the group.

“We didn’t necessarily know each other coming into this, and as the season progressed we became friends and teammates more than anything,” Fields-Rapley said.

Sizemore said that following a confidence-sapping opening loss to Aptos High, the team went about their work. They continued to improve as the season went on with the league title making the whole journey worth it.

Kindred said having a young team made it especially challenging coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, two games into league play she knew the title was within reach and she was confident they could take on any team.

“Honestly, I think if we can play like we played today, play as a team, everyone’s out, ready to play, wants to be there, wants to play hard, I don’t think there is any team that can stop us,” Kindred said.

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