By CHACE BRYSON | Editor
Sometimes the game is simply the story.
And sometimes the story is part of something bigger.
To aptly embody what transpired in the North Coast Section Division I softball championship game June 1 at Saint Mary’s College, one simply needs to start with those first two sentences.
Most reconstructions of the game between James Logan and Amador Valley “” oral or written “” are naturally to gravitate toward James Logan center fielder Marissa Perez and her game-winning defensive play. Her perfectly thrown ball from center retired the potential game-tying run at home plate for the game’s final out, securing the Colts their second NCS title in three years by defeating the nation’s top-ranked team 1-0.
Focusing on just that play ignores the following, however.
“¢ Amador Valley sophomore pitcher Johanna Grauer, who in a losing effort still solidified her standing as the most exciting/talented pitcher the East Bay has seen since Valerie Arioto graduated from Foothill in 2007.
“¢ James Logan junior pitcher RaeAnn Garza, who despite not having the electric stuff of Grauer “” and having thrown 140 pitches in a semifinal win two days before “” managed to work herself out of jams in each of the last four innings. Oh, and she also had the game-winning hit in the top of the seventh.
Furthermore, focusing on just this game between the Colts and Dons would be like beginning a new book at Chapter 2.
There’s history between these teams. Intense history. Immediate history. There’s also undoubtedly a future for both programs, unwritten chapters featuring many of the same characters.
In Chapter 2, however, the game was the story.
* * *
Garza and James Logan coach Teri Johnson were not in agreement.
The pitcher wanted to throw the rise ball. The coach wanted something down.
“We had a little back and forth,” Johnson said with a sly smirk.
Zoe Price stood in the batters box. Price, a senior, was the designated player for Amador Valley. She was hitting eighth in the order, and was hitless in her first two at bats. The count was
0-2 and she’d fouled off two pitches. Ashley Lotoszynski stood at second base, 120 feet from tying the game.
Garza threw a drop and Price sent it right back up the middle, skidding across the dirt before reaching the center field grass and a hard-charging Perez.
“I knew that anything on the ground I was going to have to throw home,” Perez said. “Automatically, right off the bat, I rushed the ball, came up with it, took my time on the throw and was just glad it went where I wanted it to go.”
Lotoszynksi was still a full step-and-a-half from the plate when the ball arrived, on a line and without a hop. She barely had time to start her slide when Colts catcher Caley Bonansea caught and tagged her on the shoulder.
As James Logan and it s throng of supporters scattered across the field following the postgame awards ceremony, several players got to share their answers to the same question.
What was your first thought when you saw the ball going to center field?
“I can say that (Marissa) practices that play every day,” Colts shortstop Jazmine Reed said. “That’s her favorite play. Right when it got hit to her, I knew she was going to gun that girl at home. I would never run on her.”
Fellow senior Alexis Martinez: “Marissa has a hard work ethic and she will never stop practicing until that play is right. I knew that throw was going to be right on the money.”
* * *
Two hours earlier, no team could’ve appeared less nervous for a title game than Amador Valley.
As the pregame sportsmanship meeting at home plate took place between captains, coaches, umpires and school officials, both teams remained gathered in front of their dugouts. While the James Logan players showed little emotion and were somewhat fidgety, the Amador Valley girls were practically dancing to the music playing over the public address system.
How could the Dons not be confident? They were the defending champions, were ranked No. 1 in the country by MaxPreps.com, and owned a 38-game winning streak that dated back to April 2011.
And they had Johanna Grauer in the circle.
No amount of hype bestowed on Grauer could have been classified as hyperbole during her sophomore campaign. She posted 18 shutouts and three no-hitters during the regular season. One of those no-hitters came against James Logan in a 2-0 nonleague victory on Mach 22. Quite simply, she was nothing short of dominant.
So it was no surprise she opened the game with a strikeout and posted seven more before she surrendered her first hit with two outs in the fourth inning. She didn’t give up another hit until the seventh when Reed lead off with a sharp single up the middle.
Grauer then posted back to back strikeouts before elevating a pitch to Garza. With the wind blowing to left field, the ball carried and Amador Valley’s left fielder could not get under it. It went for an RBI double.
The sophomore pitcher finished her day with three hits allowed, 17 strikeouts and one walk.
“Hands down the best pitcher around,” Amador Valley coach Julie Marshall said afterward. “Johanna Grauer is the next Lisa Fernandez/Jennie Finch. She does it offensively and defensively. There’s not much I can’t say in describing how great she is.”
Garza admitted that she wasn’t sure how long they could’ve gone if her double hadn’t broken the scoreless tie.
“I was definitely thinking that nobody was scoring and we could be out here all day,” she said. “Our mentality was that we knew we had to play solid defense and we had to have focused at bats. Just stay up. No matter what, stay up.”
* * *
One year earlier, it was Amador Valley celebrating a championship shutout over the Colts. Chapter 1. James Logan had been attempting to repeat and ran into a Dons’ team that started five freshmen that night, including Grauer, who became the only pitcher to shut them out that season.
Following that loss, and the subsequent no-hit loss in late March of this year “” James Logan’s only loss of 2012 “” Johnson may have felt her team needed some extra encouragement.
“In the dugout before the game, Coach Johnson told us “˜We’re going to take this today,'” Martinez said. “She’s never said that to us before. She said “˜I feel it today. We’re going to get the W,’ and that’s what we did.”
The championship was Johnson’s fourth with James Logan.
“This is just as exciting (as the others),” Johnson said. “It’s just like my 1990 championship my first championship. For this group of girls, the way we played together all year long. The way we bonded. That’s what makes it great. There was never any drama.”
On the other side, Amador Valley watched the postgame award ceremony with a steely glare. A roster full of underclassmen was not only attempting to accept its missed opportunity, but also clearly thinking that it would have a chance to rectify this loss in 2013.
Both teams only graduated four seniors.
“They’re a great team,” Marshall said. “We always battle with them. They did the things they needed to do when it counted (today), and we go from there.”
The next chapter awaits.
SportStars Magazine: High School Sports Articles Online SportStars is your go-to source for the very best high school sports articles in California. Player and team profiles, game coverage, health and fitness tips and the largest Camps, Clinics & Combine resource for athletes. We're the story behind the stats.