Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera shortstop Gennahlyn Sanchez makes a diving catch during the Coyotes’ 2-1 walk-off victory over the Sanger Apaches on Friday.
Madera Coyote pitcher Kaylee Dawson stepped into an unknown this season and is making herself known after leading the Coyotes to a 2-1 walk-off victory over the Sanger Apaches at Zimmerman Field.
Over the past four games, Dawson has allowed just four hits, including a perfect game, five-inning victory over San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno. On Friday, Dawson not only limited Sanger to just two hits, she also drove in the game-winning run.
“Kaylee had that look in her eyes today,” head coach Judy Shaubach said. “She was so focused and probably pitched her best game today.”
“This was a good team win,” Dawson said. “I know there’s a lot of stuff that goes on, but it was great to finally pull that one out.”
Because of some player departures, Dawson was forced into the ace role for the Coyotes pitching staff. Dawson threw 37 innings as a freshman and threw one inning last year with an earned run average of 4.30.
“It’s a whole different mental approach to tell myself I could do it,” she said. “It all starts with your head that you can do it. I put in all the work on the field. When gametime comes, I have to tell myself I could do it.
After the Clovis Easter Classic, Dawson had a 3.60 ERA. She has lowered that mark to 3.01 and has three wins over the last four CMAC games. She has allowed just three four earned runs over the last 26 innings (1.06 ERA).
In their previous match-up, the Apaches scored three runs to tie the game at five and eventually won in the bottom of the 10th inning.
This time, it was Madera’s turn to come-from-behind.
After Dawson was perfect through the first four innings, she allowed a lead-off single to Sanger’s Vanessa Hernandez. A sacrifice moved Hernandez to third and went to third on a stolen base after Madera catcher Valerie Ornelas tried to pick Hernandez at second.
Stephanie Herring, who hit a game-tying three-run home run in the previous game against Madera, hit a fly ball to right field to drive in Hernandez.
However, Dawson settled back down and retired the next eight batters in a row and 11 of the next 12, five by strikeout, to end the game.
Madera was having trouble against Sanger pitcher Valerie Ruiz. She allowed one baserunner to third — in the first inning — and cruised to the fifth leading 1-0.
With one out, Camile DeAnda came off the bench and reached on a bunt single.
“That was a key play,” Shaubach said. “For a freshman to come off cold off the bench and get on base was huge. She started getting the team back into the game.”
Taylor Brooks forced DeAnda at second for the first out. Brooks then stole second and scored when Layne’s grounder was misplayed for an error to tie the game.
Madera rallied in the seventh. Aaliyah Cuevas blooped a single to center. She went to second on an Ornelas walk and beat a throw to third on Hollee Brown’s sacrifice bunt attempt to load the bases.
Cuevas was forced out at the plate, but pinch-runner Brook Gill advanced to third with the bases still loaded.
Up stepped Dawson with the game on the line.
“I wanted to make contact with the ball,” she said. “I knew I could hit it hard. I was telling myself I could do it and have the confidence in myself.”
She hit a 1-1 pitch to left center that went over the outstretched glove of the left fielder for a single as Gill crossed the plate to score the game-winning run.
“That was sweet to see the ball go to the outfield,” Dawson said.
Madera will try to keep its run going against Bullard-Fresno on Tuesday and San Joaquin Memorial on Friday.