Trailing defending NCS champion James Logan by a run, Heritage sparked a comeback. In what looked to be the final inning of their game – and the Patriots’ season – senior leftfielder Melissa O’Hara singled home Kayla Barber to tie the game.
Heritage battled with the host Colts in extra innings, but lost 3-2 after Logan scored in the bottom of the ninth on an RBI single from Jazmine Reed. “We had our opportunities, we had our chances, but I thought we played well,” Patriots head coach Ron Rivers said. “I truly feel like we could’ve won that. I’m pretty sure the girls feel the same way. It was a tough game – a hard game.”
Junior pitcher Lisa Rodrigues went all nine innings, giving up two earned runs, striking out eight and going 2-for-4 at the plate. Sophomore catcher Malia Rivers went 2-for-3 and drew two walks.
Heritage finished with a 15-8 record and will be able to do something that no Bay Valley Athletic League team other than Freedom has done in 10 years – hang a softball championship banner from its rafters. The two schools will share the BVAL title.
The Patriots beat the Falcons once in the regular season, on April 12, and again in the second round of the NCS playoffs on May 27.
“It just shows that the program is growing and Heritage softball is becoming a force to be reckoned with,” Rivers said. “They responded well and played their butts off.”
Rivers noted that after the Patriots lost back-to-back May games with Freedom and serious BVAL contender Antioch, he issued his players a challenge, one they answered with vigor. Heritage beat its next three opponents – Liberty, Deer Valley and Pittsburg – by a combined 23-4, giving the Patriots a nice boost of momentum heading into the playoffs.
The winning continued in a comeback 4-3 victory in the first round of the postseason over Berkeley, and again in a 6-0 win over Freedom. But facing the defending NCS champion Colts on their home diamond was too much to overcome. Logan fell to Amador Valley in the section title game.
“I’m just happy the team took that challenge after we lost two games,” Rivers said.
The Patriots appear strong heading into next year. Several key players return for a season in which the team will try to advance past the semifinals for the first time. Heritage fielded only two seniors on this year’s roster – corner outfielders Melissa O’Hara and Deni Yandell, both all-BVAL Honorable Mention selections.
Rivers, Rodrigues and sophomore first baseman Aliciana Ramirez will look to keep the momentum going next year. All three were named to league’s First Team. Junior infielders Marissa Ortiz and Ashley Sweeney will also bolster next year’s lineup.
This year, Rodrigues established herself as one of the best pitchers in the league, along with Antioch’s Paris Imholz and Freedom’s Madison Williams, a sophomore.
“Lisa’s doing a great job,” Rivers said of his team’s ace. “She’s consistently growing each year.”