ST. HELENA, Calif. – To win a softball game at the highest level takes pitching, hitting and defense, and on Friday in the CIF state Northern Regional Division V semifinals Los Altos had more of all those three elements in a 4-2 victory over host St. Helena.
Los Altos sophomore pitcher and slugger Sophia Asar took care of the pitching and did some key hitting, and the defense behind her was near flawless in producing a victory that sends the third-seeded Eagles to the title game on Saturday on the road in Modesto at top-seeded Big Valley Christian.
Asar, who has pitched all but 12 innings of 190 innings of a current 17-12-1 campaign this season, tossed a five-hitter with no walks and four strikeouts and only had one real jam she had to pitch out of late in the game. As a batter she was on base three of four at-bats and had two RBI and her pinch runner scored a run.
“Sophia pitched very well today just like she’s been doing all year,” said Los Altos head coach Robert Herrera. “She’s pitched in all but one game this whole year.”
Asar had a part in the Eagles first run when she had a one-out walk in the top of the first inning. She was replaced by junior Sarah Zoglin who came in as a courtesy runner. Zoglin promptly stole second and was driven in by senior Stefania Bilyeu to give Los Altos a 1-0 lead it would never relinquish.
Los Altos left two runners on in the third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth, but each time St. Helena junior starting pitcher Aribella Farrell was able to wiggle out of the situations with no runs scored.
Meanwhile St. Helena only had two base-runners through five innings and didn’t get its first hit off of Asar until the fifth inning when junior Gema Jimenez singled, but she was caught stealing to end the inning.
The dam finally broke when Los Altos scored three runs in the top of the sixth, all with two outs. Junior Ainsley Witte walked and stole second. Junior Kaitlyn Smiley walked and she moved to second and Witte to third on a wild pitch. Farrell walked the bases loaded when Eagles leadoff hitter Lauren Han got a free pass. Up stepped Asar. A second wild pitch brought Witte home to make it 2-1 with Smiley going to third and Han to second. Asar then stroked a two RBI single to drive in Smiley and Han and it was 4-1 Los Altos.
“That hit was clutch,” Herrera remarked. “She did it in the Pacific Grove game too, a two RBI single. She’s just tough.”
The Pacific Grove game was an 11-10 victory in the CIF Central Coast Section Division IV semifinals.
The two RBI single against St. Helena was clutch because the Saints finally got to Asar for a two run rally in the bottom of the sixth that conceivably could have produced more runs.
Freshman Emily Glakeler singled to open the inning and went to third on a ground rule double by junior catcher Sofia Cupp that bounced over the fence in the left-centerfield power alley after looking like it might go out. Next up was freshman Tahlia Smith and she crushed a triple that drove in Glakeler and Cupp to make it 4-2 Los Altos.
Farrell reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners on first and third. Junior Skylar Freutel came to bat, and on a passed ball Smith hesitated before breaking for the plate. By the time she did Eagles senior catcher Emeline Gaunce recovered and applied the tag to record the first out. Farrell moved to second. Freutel singled moving Farrell to third and then she stole second to put runners on second and third with the go-ahead run coming to the plate in Sofia’s twin sister, Linnea Cupp. She hit a pop-up that dropped between the third base-girl and left fielder, but St. Helena head coach Brandon Farrell, the Saints Athletic Director and Aribella’s father, chose not to send her with the ball being so shallow, and the bases were loaded.
At that point with only one out it was looking like St. Helena might have a chance to take the lead with a big inning, but at that point the left-handed Asar knuckled down and got the final two outs on a strikeout and a liner to left.
Los Altos left the bases leaded themselves in the top of the seventh but as it turned out they had all the offense needed as Asar closed out the bottom of the seventh after giving up only a single.
“I was a little anxious because that sixth was a little bit of a meltdown inning, but I trusted my defense and they did what they had to do, and we got the outs,” Asar said.
What about her hitting?
“That was exhilarating.. “My mindset was just go up there and hit and I did.” Asar said while giggling the entire time.”
Second-seeded St. Helena (18-9) was able to finally hit Asar but it came too late in the game.
“No we didn’t get to her in time,” Coach Farrell said about his team’s ability to hit Asar. “If you watched our team all season we struggled to get to the pitcher until the second and third time through the order. I thought we’d get to this pitcher a little earlier and we didn’t, so you’ve got to give her credit. She did a great job.”
Was the fact Los Altos plays in a De Anza League comprised of all large schools compared to the D5 North Central I League an advantage for Los Altos.
“The only difference is with the small schools we don’t have to battle one to nine in the lineup,” Coach Farrell said. “Los Altos whole lineup took really competitive swings and that was a big difference.”
“I definitely think playing the larger schools has helped us,” Bilyeu said. “Those teams like Los Gatos really challenge us. It’s good to play those kinds of teams and then we come here and we’re ready.”
Los Gatos now has to get ready for another road game when they travel to Big City Christian for the inaugural CIF state Northern Regional Division V softball championship. The Lions were a 15-1 semifinal winner over Lowell-San Francisco.