Once the East Union-Manteca softball team reached the SJS finals, they weren’t going home without a title.
By JIM McCUE | Senior Contributor
The East Union softball team was clear in its intentions before the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship night even began, and the intentions were bad—at least for two-time defending DIII champion Pioneer.
“The captains had a players-only meeting where they said ‘we are going to be an iron fist’ and ‘we are not going to be denied tonight,’” East Union coach Brian Goulart said. “They decided that everything we do is going to be all out, sell out with reckless abandon.”
The Lancers (30-3) took an energy from that meeting that helped to deliver a pair of resounding wins over the defending champs. East Union forced a second and deciding game with a 12-1, six-inning rout before finishing off the Patriots with a 17-3 drubbing that claimed the program’s first section title since 2004 and third overall.
Just one day earlier, the Lancers suffered a disappointing 4-2 defeat at the hands of Pioneer that sent them into the loser’s bracket. It was the second time in 2015 that East Union was dealt a narrow loss by Pioneer—the Patriots won an eight-inning game 6-5 on March 28.
Goulart and the Lancers knew that they could hit even the best pitching, and knew that they had the legs to circle the bases as many times as needed despite playing an extra game the night before. The challenge would be making the energy created by the bitterness and disappointment of another close loss last more than just a few innings.
“Fatigue was not the issue, but rather can you sustain the energy?” Goulart said. “From the first pitch, the hollering and hustling was magical. My only concern was sustaining that energy and not going flat.”
After the impressive first-game performance, East Union batted around in the top of the first inning of game two to jump to a 7-0 lead. While it might have been easy for the Lancers to exhale and let up, the players remained determined to not let up.
“No mercy,” junior captain Samantha Owen. “We felt that we were underestimated by them, and we knew that we could not show any mercy.”
Owen, who had a phenomenal postseason at the plate, was perfect against Pioneer in the playoffs, including a 7-for-7 performance with six runs scored, six RBI, and two home runs on the final night. Sophomore Alexis Erich, who led the team with a .644 batting average during the season, was 4-for-6 with four runs and seven RBI. Cherish Burks, the team’s lone senior, was 5-for-6 and scored six runs, including a pair of doubles in the Lancers’ seven-run first inning of game two.
Sophomore pitchers Delaney Pamplin and Mikayla Bongi, who each won 15 games in 2015, each picked up complete game wins.
Some of East Union’s determination may have been rooted in past defeats. The Lancers entered the 2015 section final with a 2-10 record with a section championship on the line, including a loss to Oakdale in the 2014 Division IV final.
“Losing that championship game is painful,” Goulart said. “Every time that we have had to shake hands, say congratulations, and go home heartbroken is painful.
“This is going to go far for so many former players and coaches, the community, but most importantly for the current players. I am very proud of our accomplishments.”