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March 25, 2023

Undisputed champs

Through the first four innings, it looked like Soquel High’s softball team was poised to upset its second-consecutive first-place opponent. The Knights defeated then-first place Aptos High 1-0 on May 13, and were knotted up 0-0 with new league leader San Lorenzo Valley heading into the top of the fifth inning Friday, May 15.
But the Cougars were determined to win their first Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title since 1988.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, Cougars freshman Hayle Leontieff drove in the first run of the game when she took a full-count walk, bringing up catcher Jasmine Jones.
Jones smashed a sharp line drive into the left-center field gap, clearing the bases for a three-run double, putting the Cougars up 4-0.
“I knew I had a job that needed to be done,” Jones said matter-of-factly after the game.
Starting pitcher Sam Lipperd allowed two runs in the bottom half of the inning, but the Cougars added another in the sixth inning to cruise to the league title.
“We knew we didn’t want to share the league title with Aptos,” shortstop Whitney Heuser said.
SLV (11-1 SCCAL) split the season series with Aptos (10-2), but when Soquel beat the Mariners, it opened the door for the Cougars, who finished second to Aptos a season ago.
SLV finished the season 24-6 overall and received a first-round bye in the Division III Central Coast Section playoffs.
The No. 3-seeded Cougars will play on Saturday, May 23, at a site that had yet to be determined as of Press-Banner press time.
What was the key to the Cougars’ success this season?
“I think our senior leadership, absolutely,” coach Mark Brown said.
Brown carried three freshmen on his roster, and all played key roles during the regular season.
“I told the girls at the beginning, you are going to have to provide leadership and mentor them,” Brown said.
In 2008, SLV won two CCS playoff games, including a shocker over Aptos, before succumbing to Stevenson in the semifinals.
This year’s goal?
“Hopefully, all the way,” Heuser said.


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