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Lady Dogs take NCS Division II title

The Alhambra High School Varsity Girls Softball Team takes home the North Coast Section Division II Championship June 4, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)
The Alhambra High School Varsity Girls Softball Team takes home the North Coast Section Division II Championship June 4, 2016. (MARK FIERNER / Martinez Tribune)

By CLAIRE PULKOWNIK
Martinez Tribune

The Lady Dogs are champions once again. Alhambra sealed the three-peat on Saturday, June 4, with the perfect blend of great pitching, three home runs and that bulldog mentality.

Top seeded Alhambra beat the number two seeded Newark Memorial in a seven inning battle of the bats, 12-6. The two teams had one previous meeting earlier this season, which took place during the Reed High School Softball Tournament in Sparks, Nevada. The Bulldogs beat the Cougars in their previous matchup 5-3.

Alhambra came out swinging in the first inning. Karlee Sparacino hit a line-drive double through the gap that leadoff hitter Kimiko Zapanta and Bri Perez were able to score off of. Junior Morgan Azevedo also hit a double that allowed Sparacino to cross home.

Newark Memorial quickly responded in the top of the second, showing they weren’t going down without a fight. The Cougars had a runner at first when Haylee Nelson laid down a bunt. However, the Bulldogs’ third baseman overthrew the ball allowing not only Savanna Norberg-Swickard to score from first, but also Nelson.

“We just launched the ball into right field. Bad enough it’s an error, throwing the ball to right field, but then they got a tarp laying out in right field and my right fielder put her hands up because the ball was under the tarp,” Head Coach Buccellato explained about the play.

“But since it wasn’t lodged under the tarp, they let the girl keep running.”

The Cougars were able to tie the game on a single by Newark Memorial’s leading hitter and San Jose State commit, Maricela Matos.

Alhambra was able to rally behind two homers in the bottom of the second. The home-runs came off the bats of Perez, who drove in three runs, and Cara DiMercurio, who drove in another two runs to put the Bulldogs up 8-3. Perez previously homered off of Newark’s starting pitcher, Jiana Rojo, in their matchup earlier this season.

Newark Memorial responded with a home run of their own in the top of the fourth on a shot to center field by Matos. The Cougars scored another run in the fourth on an error by Alhambra’s third baseman, Lindsey Osmer.

The bottom of the fourth was bittersweet for the Bulldogs. DiMercurio walked with the bases loaded and no outs, allowing Zapanta to come home for a run. Alejia Lewis came in to run for DiMercurio and on a sacrifice fly ball hit by Regan Silva, Perez was able to score. However, Lewis wasn’t able to stand after sliding into second base and had to be carried off the field.

“The trainer said (Alejia) may have a broken ankle … Alejia is a great kid, she’s part of the reason our team is happy and everyone gets along. She’s a big part of the team,” Buccellato reported on the injured runner.

Miranda Nilson ended the scoring with a two-run homer to left field, for her second home run of the season off of Rojo, putting the Bulldogs up 12-6 over the Cougars. “It’s a team effort. You look down the line, one through nine, like Miranda Nilson is batting sixth in our lineup and she had a home run today – a big home run that put the nail in the coffin,” the head coach said about his left-fielder.

The Bulldogs’ senior starting pitcher, Sierra College commit Sam Whitworth, dueled for all seven innings on Saturday. Whitworth gave up eight hits and three walks. She also struck out seven batters after 122 pitches.

“I was gonna let Brianna Edwards throw one inning … but Sam was pretty persistent in saying, ‘I’m not coming out, I’m gonna sit on the field, you’re not taking me out,’” Coach Buccellato said when asked why he didn’t take Whitworth out of the game after some struggling. “It’s her senior year, the last time she’ll play (high school softball). She was pitching well today, so I decided to leave her in there … I got Bri all next year.”

The game ended in similar fashion to another recent Bay Area championship – a popup in foul territory, caught by the third baseman, and teammates rushing the field.

Martinez, just like the Bay, is home to champions once again.

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