Abbey Liao/Special to the Town Crier Los Altos High's Shelby White throws a pitch in Thursday's game against Los Gatos. Jocelyn Lee drove in the winning run and White didn't allow a run.
Shelby White's pitching performance wasn't a surprise - the Los Altos High senior has been dominating batters all season - but the biggest hit in the Eagles' biggest win of the softball season came from an unlikely source.
Jocelyn Lee, who entered Thursday’s battle against Los Gatos with just one hit all year, ripped a triple to left field in the fifth inning that scored the lone run in a game that ultimately decided first place in the SCVAL De Anza Division.
“That was clutch,” Eagles coach Robert Herrera said of the senior shortstop’s two-out RBI. “Jocelyn was ecstatic, and I’m so happy for her.”
Host Los Altos (10-1) mustered only two hits in the 1-0 victory and needed a little luck to make Lee’s matter. With one away, catcher Emeline Gaunce reached first base on an error and was subsequently replaced by courtesy runner Paola Lara-Espinoza. Stefania Bilyeu then moved her to second with what Herrera called “a beautiful bunt” – her first of the season. That set the stage for Lee, who belted the ball past the left fielder and all the way to the fence line.
“That was a great triple by Jocelyn,” winning pitcher White said. “Once she hit the ball, I knew Paola was going to score.”
In the top half of the fifth, Los Gatos (8-2) nearly scored. The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out, but White induced a pop up in foul territory and a fly ball to right to end the threat.
“I think that me and Em (Gaunce), my catcher, work well in high-pressure situations and we have major trust in the team,” White said. “I’m actually more calm. It’s a good feeling to know that your team has your back.”
No more so than in the seventh, when right fielder Franchesca Baker preserved the victory by making what may have been the catch of the day. Addie Payne – one of Los Gatos’ most dangerous hitters – launched a ball to deep right that Baker raced backward to track down, reaching out to snare it for the final out.
“That was a fantastic way to end it,” Herrera said.
Minutes later, the Eagles learned that third-place Mountain View (7-3) had lost, guaranteeing that Los Altos could not be caught in this final week of play. Although this Thursday’s league finale between the rivals won’t alter the Eagles’ league standing, Herrera said his team is still motivated to beat the host Spartans. Mountain View handed them their lone loss of the season.
“It was our first game, and we only had eight players because of conflicts with Season 2 (sports),” he said of the 2-0 defeat, “so we had to call up some JV players.”
White added that she is eager for the rematch; the April 22 game is the only blemish on her record this year.
The Eagles’ ace improved to 6-1 with Thursday’s win and dropped her ERA to 0.66. White surrendered eight hits to the Wildcats, but she also recorded seven strikeouts and walked just one batter.
“It was fun (Thursday),” she said. “Before this year, we always lost to Los Gatos, so it was great to be able to pull through.”
Los Altos is guaranteed a berth in the Central Coast Section playoffs, set to begin June 7. The Eagles’ record and league standing could warrant a spot in the CCS Open Division, comprising the top eight teams in the section.
“I’m a little worried about that, but I guess that’s our reward for doing well,” Herrera said with a chuckle.