Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera freshman Valerie Ornelas rips a two-run first inning home run during Thursday’s 6-3 Div. II quarterfinal playoff victory over Tulare Western.
The Madera Coyotes softball team is looking for its third straight Div. II title and in order to accomplish that, they needed to get through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The first part concluded Thursday with a 6-3 victory over fifth-seeded Tulare Western at Zimmerman Field. The Coyotes played top-seeded Monache-Porterville on Tuesday in the semifinals in a rematch of last year’s Valley Championship, which ended on an Aaliyah Cuevas walk-off, inside-the-park eighth inning home run.
“We’re starting to come around with understanding to play to our strengths and use our speed,” head coach Judy Shaubach said. “We cause defenses a lot of stress. I thought we ran really well.”
The fourth-seeded Coyotes jumped out to a four-run lead, but allowed three unearned runs in the fourth inning. The Coyotes bounced back with runs in the fifth and sixth innings for the win.
“That insurance run all plays into a complete game,” Shaubach said. “It’s good to get that first game under our belts. We’re really looking forward to that match up with Monache. We’re feeling really strong going in.”
Valerie Ornelas hit her fourth home run in the first inning. Coyotes slugger Aaliyah Cuevas, a Fresno State commit, recorded her 13th double of the season to tie the school record for most in a season and it was her 35th double in her career to set the new school mark.
“It was good to see Aaliyah come though and clutch up,” Shaubach said. “That big pop Val had to start the game off with those two runs was huge. Everyone kind of relaxed after that.”
Kaylee Dawson scattered six hits and allowed three unearned runs. She retired seven in a row to end the game.
“I thought Kaylee struggled a little bit, but she made pitches when she had to and allowed the defense allowed to make plays,” Shaubach said. “We’re about as good as we’re going to be. We’re peaking.”
With two outs in the first, Cuevas drew a four-pitch walk. On the next pitch Ornelas hit a high fly ball to center that landed beyond the fence for a two-run home run.
The Coyotes added two more run in the third inning. Taylor Brooks led off the inning with a bunt single. She stole second for her 24th stolen base to break the school record. She advanced to second on a throwing error and scored on Layne’s bloop single to left.
Cuevas sacrificed Layne to second. Ornelas singled to shallow left field and an error allowed runners to go to second and third. Hollee Brown singled to left-center to drive in Layne for a four-run lead.
The Coyotes loaded the bases, but were unable to drive in another run in the inning.
The Mustangs took the momentum from the Coyotes in the fourth. With one out, Tulare Western reached on an error. After Dawson got a strikeout, she walked the next batter.
Dawson got the next batter to fly out to right to end the inning. However, an illegal pitch was called and the runners moved up a base and Dawson went back to the circle.
The batter singled up the middle to score two runs and a throwing error allowed the batter to advanced to third. A double drove in a third Mustangs run before Dawson got a popout to shortstop Gennahlyn Sanchez to end the inning.
Madera added a run in the fifth using its speed to put pressure on Tulare Western. Cuevas led off with a single up the middle. She went to third on Ornelas’ chopper to third.
With Brown at the plate, Ornelas stole second. On the throw back, the Tulare Western pitcher missed the ball and Cuevas came in to score an insurance run.
Madera added to its lead in the sixth when Sofia Perez blooped a ball to left-center and hustled into second for a double. She was sacrificed to third by Brooks and Cuevas hit her record breaking double to left-center to drive in pinch-runner Mikayla Arretta for a 6-3 lead.
Dawson settled down after the fourth and got a fly out to right for the first out in the seventh and struck out the next two batters to end the game for her 12th victory of the season.