Spartans close in on De Anza crown

Rachel Dove
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Rachel Dove slides safely into home plate against Wilcox.

The Mountain View High softball team entered this week with two swings at securing the SCVAL De Anza Division championship outright.

The first-place Spartans (10-0 league) needed to beat sixth-place Santa Clara (2-9) Tuesday on the road, after the Town Crier’s deadline, or defeat fourth-place Los Altos (5-5) 4 p.m. Thursday at home to claim the crown. In the unlikely event that Mountain View drops both games – the Spartans routed the Bruins and rival Eagles earlier in the season – the team would likely have to settle for another co-championship with Los Gatos (8-2).

“We don’t want to share with them,” said head coach Xavier Cook, whose Spartans edged the Wildcats 2-1 and 6-5 this season. “We did that last year.”

Los Gatos wound up in the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs, comprising the eight best teams, and was eliminated in the first round. If Mountain View takes top honors in the league this year, it will play in the Open Division playoffs slated to start next week.

“The Open is a gauntlet – there are no free passes,” Cook said. “We’ll have to bring not just our A game, but our A-plus game.”

While the Spartans have done that in most of their divisional games, outscoring opponents by a combined 70-10, they have only a 5-6 record outside the De Anza. That includes a 6-1 home loss to Capuchino last week.

“We didn’t play well from the beginning,” said Cook, who rested a few of his starters May 1 in preparation for the playoffs. “Slow starts are my least favorite quality in this team. We can’t have that against good teams, because they’ll make you pay for it. We need to be locked in before the game starts – mentally and physically.”

Earlier in the season, shortstop Rachel Dove acknowledged her squad’s sluggish starts.

“We always say that we show up at the end of games,” the junior said. “We need to do better at the start.”

Mountain View whipped Wilcox 7-0 in its lone league game last week, but the Spartans entered the fifth inning leading the last-place Chargers just 2-0. Then Mountain View exploded for five runs to put the game away. Alysia Capote homered to finish with two hits and two RBIs. Simiran Lauwers earned the win, allowing two hits and striking out four batters over five frames.

“Simiran has been pitching her heart out,” Cook said of the junior, who is 9-2 with a 0.70 ERA. “She’s kept us in a lot of games.”

Ilona Sullivan, who recently returned from an ankle injury, gives the Spartans a potent one-two pitching punch. The senior is 4-4 with a 2.00 ERA.

“With the pitching we have, if we put up two to four runs in the first inning, it takes the wind out of (the other team’s) sails,” Cook said.

The coach has tweaked the lineup in an effort to generate more runs early in games. Last month he moved Erin Malone from the bottom of the order to the leadoff spot.

“She’s done a good job,” Cook said of the junior, who is batting .353. “She understands how to get on base.”

Once she does, Mountain View has several hitters capable of bringing her home. Jessica Day’s .443 batting average and 18 RBIs lead the club; Mariah Villalobos is batting .377 with 13 RBIs; Dove is hitting .344 with a team-best 21 runs scored; and Emily Klemm has a .288 batting average with a team-high eight doubles.

“We have a team of solid hitters,” Dove said. “We have power hitters, line-drive hitters and speedy runners. It all comes together in the lineup.”

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