San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley softball teams are in a tight race for the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title. (Juan Reyes/Press Banner)

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

The race for the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League crown is becoming much tighter for San Lorenzo Valley and Scotts Valley as both teams head into the final stretch of the 2024 season.

The Cougars and Falcons were caught in a three-way tie with Aptos High atop of the SCCAL standings with an 8-2 record in league play as of Monday.

Scotts Valley split the first two games of the regular season with Aptos following a 7-1 victory in league play April 25.

“It was nice to bounce back after the 1-0 loss to SLV [in the] last game, every win is important this season with how close things are in league,” Scotts Valley head coach Jeremy Wilson said after last week’s win against Aptos.

Freshman pitcher Chloe Kent delivered a gem performance in the circle for the Falcons. She had a complete game victory with 11 strikeouts, while surrendering just three hits for the win.

“It’s definitely a luxury to have two dominant pitchers,” Wilson said. “[Kent and Sofia Seese] have been solid all year long.”

The Falcons got on the scoreboard in the second inning with a lead off home run courtesy of junior Gracie Delgado.

They put a stamp on the win with a big five-run sixth inning, which included RBI singles by Jazzy Doubek, Jazzy Phillips and Brooklyn Williams.

“[Kent] definitely had her ‘A’ game against us, really kept us off balanced,” Aptos head coach Phil Rojas said.

Wilson gave credit to his batters for taking advantage of opportunities in Thursday’s win, and believes he can get more from his offense.

“We have great hitters, we just need to believe in ourselves and get the barrel to the ball,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the big question mark this season has been the offense. Once they figure out that conundrum, he believes the Falcons are capable of making a deep run into the postseason.

The Falcons were in great shape going into the final game of their series with Aptos. Yet, it was the Mariners who came out on top with a 1-0 nail-biting win April 27.

“[Carbajal] pitched a great game today with their backs against the wall,” said Wilson after Saturday’s loss to Aptos. “Today she placed the ball better, definitely was hitting her spots.”

SLV previously lost, 9-1, to Aptos in the teams’ first meeting April 11.

Since then, the Cougars handed Scotts Valley its first loss in SCCAL play with a 1-0 win April 23. Abigale Krepelka racked up six strikeouts while giving up five hits in six scoreless innings for SLV.

“We had some pitch calling changes in the first inning and that kind of messed [Krepelka] up,” SLV head coach Mark Brown said. “I think she got stronger as the game went on.”

SLV sophomore Sophia Sarmiento had a pair of base hits and one crucial stolen base that helped set up the go-ahead run in the third inning, while junior pitcher Jori Fields-Rapley closed it out in the seventh frame.

“It was really exciting,” Fields-Rapley said. “We were on it the whole game, which is really important, every single pitch. It was good.”

Fields-Rapley’s ability to swap around in the infield at shortstop or in the pitcher’s circle has been money this season.

In last week’s win against Scotts Valley, he relieved Krepelka in the seventh inning after she was hit with a linedrive near the neck area. With two Falcons batters on base, Fields-Rapley got the final three outs.

“[Fields-Rapley] did great, very proud of him and what he was able to do and come in that situation,” Brown said. “That takes guts to be able to do that. Because you could come in and it could go either way at that point.”

Fields-Rapley batted 4-for-5, including two triples, one double, four RBIs and one run scored in a 14-5 crushing win over Soquel in league action April 25.

With the win, the Cougars are currently riding a four-game win streak.

A league champion is far from being decided. Scotts Valley has two games remaining against SLV, which has a 1-0 season series lead. Both games are scheduled for May 9 and 10 at 4:30pm in Felton.

“We’ve been working really hard to be together as a team and prove that we could play as a team together,” Brown said. “They’ve been doing it for the last couple of weeks, getting better and working better at the end of the season.”

Sports Editor Juan Reyes contributed to this story.

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