The Lowell High School softball team cruised through the Academic Athletic Association regular season rarely challenged. In fact, only one team (Galileo) in the AAA kept the Cardinals from winning by 10 runs or more.
So it was surprising to see Lowell clinging to a one-run lead against rival Washington heading into the bottom of the fifth inning of the AAA-San Francisco Section championship game Tuesday at San Francisco State.
However, Lowell's offense exploded for 10 combined runs in the fifth and sixth innings en route to a
12-2 win in six innings. In the process, the Cardinals captured their fourth consecutive AAA-S.F. Section
championship and seventh in eight years.
"This is a hitting team, and once we get something opened up, it becomes a trend for us," Lowell coach Sascha Taylor-Ray said. "It's not me winning the championships, it's the girls. I prepare them, they answer in practice, and I can't be more proud of them and this program."
Washington didn't play like a team that lost to Lowell 13-0 and 16-3 during the regular season. In the top of the first inning with two outs and senior shortstop Michelle Monterrosa on first base, freshman pitcher Hannah Ryan smoked a double to left field, scoring Monterrosa and giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
But Lowell answered in the bottom of the second when senior center fielder Kelly Wong's two-out triple to right-center brought home Samantha Fong and Marisa Lee, giving Lowell a 2-1 lead.
After Lowell scored three times in the bottom of the fifth inning -- extending its lead to 5-1 -- Washington added a run in the top of the sixth, but was unable to inflict more damage, as Cindy Doung struck out with runners on first and second with two-outs.
Those were the last at-bats of the season for Washington, as Lowell finally got to Ryan. The Cardinals scored seven runs in the bottom of the sixth, jump-started by back-to-back doubles from Fong and Wong.
"We came out and played to win, played and competed, and for the first four innings, we were right there," Washington coach Carrie Wert said. "[Lowell] is a strong hitting team, and once they got their timing, our defense fell apart and it got a little ugly there at the end."
Senior catcher Gretel Gunther's bases loaded single to center was the final blow, sending Lowell to another championship.
"Washington gave us a run, and they always come for us, and I commend them for that to them," Taylor-Ray said. "But we're a hitting team, and we just needed to relax and hit, and they did a great job doing that."
Lowell will next take on Oakland Tech in the annual Transbay series. The sites and times are still to be determined.