Celina Matthias brought the wrong jersey Tuesday night. No sweat, instead of her usual #16, she wore Ashley Martin’s uniform #3. And, she pitched Pleasant Grove High School’s softball team into the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division I championships for the second year in a row.
“There was a group message I didn’t get so I brought the wrong jersey,” the senior hurler explained.
No matter. With a big ice pack on her throwing shoulder Matthias grinned with the prospect of having to pitch maybe as many as six games in three nights in this double-elimination bracket tournament.
“I’ve done it before,” she said. “When I was in Colorado a few years ago and we got fifth in (AAU) Nationals, pitching for the Lady Magic.”
Playing in the losers’ bracket for the second night in a row, the Eagles defeated Roseville, 6-3, and then came from behind to defeat Rocklin, 5-2 on Tuesday.
This set up a rematch with the undefeated Vacaville Bulldogs Wednesday at the Sacramento Softball Complex. Pleasant Grove must win two games in order to grab its first Section championship since 2009.
The pair of wins Tuesday also meant that an Elk Grove Unified softball team plays in the Division I championship game for the 9th year in a row. Ironically, it was Vacaville that won the title in 2005. The Bulldogs, at 28-0-1 this season, look formidable for the Eagles , especially because Pleasant Grove has to win both games Wednesday.
Vanessa Washington, who will catch her fifth game in a row that night, says she’s ready for it and so is her battery mate, Matthias.
“Celina is pitching phenomenal. I haven’t seen her pitch this well in a while,” Washington said. “She has done consistently well throughout the game.”
Washington drilled a three-run homer in the Roseville game Tuesday. On Monday her eighth-inning round tripper was the difference when the Eagles sent Sheldon out of the playoffs with a, 8-7 win.
“I think I’m seeing the ball really well,” the Delaware State-bound senior said. “Mentally, I know this is my last year of playing high school and I just want to make my best out of it.”
The hero of the Rocklin win was junior Sabrina Hicks. She came to bat in the sixth inning with one out and Pleasant Grove trailing the Thunder, 2-1.
“I knew I had to do my job as a batter,” Hicks said. “(Rocklin pitcher Carli Cutler) was throwing rise balls. I knew was going to throw something high and I got myself deep in the count. When I saw it was inside I turned on it.”
Hicks lined a double down the left field line to score Katherine Antigua and Raeanna Young and give the Eagles the lead for good. Hicks, who hits in the ninth spot in the lineup, had a key two-run double Monday in the win over Sheldon.
“It isn’t because I am a bad hitter,” she explained. “I know we want runners on and we can count on (lead off hitter Marissa Maligad) at the top of the lineup to hit me in.”
Maligad followed Hicks greeted Rocklin’s relief pitcher Maddy Wuelfing with a line drive homer to right to increase the lead to 5-2.
Pleasant Grove, thanks to a great diving catch by Young and doubling off a runner from first base in the sixth inning, held on to set up the match-up with the Bulldogs. The Eagles know exactly what they must do to get hits off Vacaville ace pitcher Katie Kibby.
“Lay off the rise ball,” Hicks said expressly.
Kibby has thrown three shutouts thus far in the playoffs for Vacaville. She’s surrendered only one run and that was Washington’s solo homer Monday off her.
“They are a really good team and one of the best teams we’ve played all year, but I think we can beat them,” Washington said.
Last season Pleasant Grove handed Vintage its only defeat of the year in the semi-finals, but lost to the Crushers in the championship.