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Prep softball: San Marin stages seventh-inning rally to win MCAL title

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  • Redwood's Gianna Flores is tagged out at home in the...

    Redwood's Gianna Flores is tagged out at home in the third inning by San Marin's catcher Savannah Reynolds in the MCAL softball final on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. San Marin won 6-4. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

  • San Marin players gather for a photo after beating Redwood...

    San Marin players gather for a photo after beating Redwood 6-4 in the MCAL softball final on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

  • San Marin pitcher Brittany Casper goes to work against Redwood...

    San Marin pitcher Brittany Casper goes to work against Redwood in the MCAL softball final on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. San Marin won 6-4. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

  • Redwood pitcher Stella Belluomini throws against Redwood in the MCAL...

    Redwood pitcher Stella Belluomini throws against Redwood in the MCAL softball final on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. San Marin won 6-4. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

  • San Marin players Samantha Whitlock and Leah Cronin discuss who...

    San Marin players Samantha Whitlock and Leah Cronin discuss who should catch a fly ball in the MCAL softball final against Redwood on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. Cronin prevailed. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

  • Redwood's Maizy Crawford dives for a foul ball as Redwood...

    Redwood's Maizy Crawford dives for a foul ball as Redwood plays San Marin in the MCAL softball final on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

  • San Marin players react to winning the MCAL softball final...

    San Marin players react to winning the MCAL softball final against Redwood on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. Final score was 6-4. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

  • Redwood players rally as they take the field against San...

    Redwood players rally as they take the field against San Marin in MCAL softball final on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. Despite Redwood's best efforts, San Marin won 6-4. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

  • Redwood players cheer as they play San Marin in the...

    Redwood players cheer as they play San Marin in the MCAL softball final on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. San Marin won 6-4. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

  • San Marin pitcher Brittany Casper throws against Redwood in the...

    San Marin pitcher Brittany Casper throws against Redwood in the MCAL softball final on Friday, May 10, 2024 in Novato, Calif. San Marin won 6-4. (Frankie Frost/Special to the Marin Independent Journal)

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The San Marin High softball team was down to its final three outs and trailing by a run when all of a sudden the momentum started to shift back in the Mustangs’ favor during Friday’s MCAL championship game against Redwood.

Ground balls that were hit right at Redwood’s infielders during the first five innings began to find their way through for singles in the sixth and seventh – some clean up the middle over second base, others that glanced just off an outstretched glove or required spectacular plays just to keep them on the infield.

Fourth-seeded San Marin (13-10) put together a three-run rally in the top of the seventh against No. 2 Redwood (17-8) – including a game-changing play that almost resulted in two outs but ended up with everyone safe and the tying run crossing home plate – as the Mustangs came from behind for a 6-4 victory and the program’s first MCAL pennant since 2018.

“We really stepped up and believed in ourselves and when the pressure was on we succeeded,” said freshman Taylor Testa, who pitched the final three innings to earn the victory.

The rally began with Amanda Postel working her at-bat against Redwood’s Stella Belluomini into a full count before drawing a leadoff walk.

Samantha Whitlock followed with a hit toward Hailey Carlton at second base. Carlton made a diving stop to keep the ball in the infield then took the out at first as pinch runner Olivia Maffei advanced to second.

Lauren Fong followed by hitting the ball to a similar spot, again forcing Carlton to make a strong defensive play to keep the ball in the infield. Carlton flipped the ball backhanded toward Maizy Crawford at full stretch at first base. The umpire ruled Fong safe at first base as Maffei aggressively looked to score, just beating the throw home to tie the game at 4-4.

“Going in (to the seventh) I told them we just need to take a deep breath,” first-year San Marin coach Samantha Tong said. “We don’t need to be a hero. All we need to do is put the ball in play and make them field it. You never know what’s going to happen. As soon as we got that one, everyone sort of got that confidence.”

Leah Cronin followed with another single just past short then Testa hit a clean single up the middle to load the bases. Savannah Reynolds hit into a fielder’s choice toward second, the throw came home but Fong slid in safely to put San Marin in front 5-4 and everyone was safe. Shelby Atkinson added a two-out single for the final margin.

“(Belluomini is) a drop ball pitcher so everything is low, everything is going to be on the ground,” Testa said. “So after we see her, we adjust a little bit more and obviously as the game goes on a pitcher tends to get a little more tired so I think that just helped us. We just kept putting the bat on the ball and that’s what you want to do. That’s how you win games.”

Testa allowed a leadoff walk to Kait Christensen in the bottom of the seventh but retired the next three hitters. Fong made a strong play at short to get the force at second on a fielder’s choice for the first out then caught a pop-up for the second out. Testa fielded a ground ball hit back at her and fired to first for the final out.

“During practices we hammer our defense so I think that also helped us succeed,” Testa said. “We really trusted each other in those last innings.”

As they did Wednesday against top-seeded San Rafael, the Mustangs made a number of strong defensive plays to stay within a run.

Cronin literally saved a run in the third inning, catching a fly ball in center field then throwing to the plate to get another out at home. Fong made a pair of dazzling plays in the sixth inning to prevent Redwood from putting more runners on and potentially adding to their one-run lead.

“I just remember wanting the ball to come to me,” Fong said. “I wanted to be able to make the plays for my team. Everything I do on that field is for my team and I really wanted to give it my all tonight because it was now or never.”

San Marin started the night with a three-run first inning, scoring once on an RBI single by Reynolds then adding two more on an error. Redwood immediately clapped back with three runs in the bottom of the frame, with RBI singles by Addy Dunn and Crawford, plus a bases-loaded walk drawn by Josie Templeton.

Templeton hit an RBI single to put Redwood up 4-3 in the third, one play before Cronin’s outfield assist denied Redwood a 5-3 lead.

The championship capped an MCAL campaign that saw the Mustangs get stronger as the season went on. San Marin defeated Marin Catholic and Archie Williams in the second half of the season, lost to Redwood by a single run, and lost to San Rafael in extra innings.

“I’m really big on chemistry and this is a new team,” Tong said. “We have six freshmen – half our team are newbies. In the beginning it was kind of rough just seeing everybody’s personalities, trying to mix and get them together but we worked. We had fun at practice, we did some more team bondings – anything to kind of make everything click — because I know we had the best defense in MCAL, our hitting is there, so finally we were able to click.”

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