Hannah Cushing

West Bay Warriors right-fielder Hannah Cushing of Los Altos prepares to make a throw to the infield after catching a fly ball.

After playing a supporting role on St. Francis High’s undefeated softball team last spring, Hannah Cushing took center stage for her travel team over the summer. The Los Altos resident helped lead the West Bay Warriors to a national championship.

With Cushing batting third in the lineup and patrolling right field, the Warriors claimed the 16U Tier 1 Alliance Fastpitch Championship Series in Oklahoma. In 13 games, played over seven days, the 16-year-old went 17-for-44 at the plate (.386 batting average) and literally made an impression in the outfield.

“In the second game of the championship series, I ran into the wall,” Cushing said of her attempt to snare a fly ball. “I hit it pretty hard – there was a giant print of me on the padded wall.”

But did she make the catch?

“No, but I was close,” Cushing said.

Combine that kind of effort with her ability, and it’s no wonder Cushing’s coach gushes about her.

“Hannah Cushing is a dynamic player that (possesses) all the tools of a great one,” said Ray McDonald, who also founded the Peninsula-based Warriors. “She can fly, she can throw, she can hit, she can hit the ball out of the park, and she can go get a ball in the outfield with the best of them and will run through a fence if she has to.”

Or at least into a fence. Cushing shook off that run-in with the wall, continuing to make plays in the field and at-bat that contributed to the Warriors’ best-of-three series win over Corona Angels Slye in the finals. She went 4-for-10 at the plate (.400 batting average), notching two doubles and two singles over the three games. Cushing also drove in a run and scored twice.

“I stayed consistent and did my job throughout the tournament,” she said, “which was to get on base and get RBIs.”

Cushing didn’t have as many chances to do that at St. Francis last season. As a sophomore she played off the bench for the talent-laden Lancers, who finished 26-0 and dominated the Central Coast Section Open Division playoffs. Cushing batted .333 for the year, totaling five hits and 12 runs in 15 plate appearances.

“I helped when needed and pinch ran, but it was probably my worst season in terms of hitting,” she said. “Softball is a mental game, and it’s tough (not playing much). But that brings out the fight in me when I get an opportunity, and it makes playing so much better. It made me feel very grateful to play for the Warriors.”

McDonald is grateful to have Cushing at West Bay, which she joined at the 12U level after four years with Mountain View Los Altos Girls Softball.

“Kid shows up every single day with a smile on her face ready to lead the troops,” he said.

There were plenty of smiles to go around July 30 – the day the Warriors won the national crown.

It was a long day, though, with West Bay facing Corona Angels Slye three times amid hot and humid weather.

Bouncing back

After dropping the first game 7-6 in the morning, the Warriors regrouped by the afternoon.

“We had some downtime before the next game ... we ate food and then went our separate ways to reflect,” Cushing said. “Then in the dugout … we had great energy and no one was stressing out. We play our best when we’re loose and having fun.”

The Warriors won that game 5-4, with Cushing smacking a double for the team’s first hit.

An hour later, the teams were back on the field for the deciding third game.

“There wasn’t much time in between, but I like playing in a row – especially after a win,” Cushing said. “You’re still pumped and have lots of energy.”

The Warriors rode that momentum to a 3-1 victory.

“That was just great,” Cushing said. “It was stressful, but I was having so much fun. It’s an amazing feeling to win a championship with your best friends.”

Without Cushing’s heroics a few days earlier, the Warriors may not have reached this pinnacle. Her walk-off hit in the Elite 8 round sent them to the final four.

“That was my most clutch moment,” Cushing said.

She doesn’t have much time to savor any of it – West Bay’s fall season starts this month. Cushing also has recruiting to deal with; the junior said several colleges have already contacted her.