For the first time in the program's history, Cloverdale clinched the softball sectional title, overcoming Monrovia, 7-6, in nine innings.
"We did it," CHS Coach Chuck Mowery said. "We did it the hard way, but we hung in there and did it."
The funny thing is after the first inning, no one would have thought that Cloverdale would be hoisting the sectional trophy into the air midfield.
In the top of the first, Monrovia took a commanding 5-0 lead with its top four batters reaching safely with hits. Moments later they were crossing the plate for the score. Then in the top of the fourth, Monrovia tacked on another run, making it 6-0 and it looked like it was all but over for the Clovers.
In the first four innings, Cloverdale managed only one hit and that was from Paige Gutierrez in the first inning of play. So if the Clovers were going to make a move it had to be soon.
And that's exactly what they did.
In the top of the fifth frame, Cloverdale's defense stopped making errors and started making plays, shutting down Monrovia's offense. Then in the bottom half of the frame, Cloverdale finally got on the board when Breegan Andersen doubled past the infield, scoring Whitney Bond. It finally looked like Cloverdale was going to get a break, but a double play a first and third ended the Clovers' chances of scoring anymore in the fifth inning.
Cloverdale managed another run in the sixth inning when Sam Smith plated herself on a passed ball, after reaching on a single earlier, making the score 6-2 heading into the seventh and nearly final inning of the game.
"I knew we could win this game, but when we went into the bottom of the seventh down 6-2, I was worried that it was over," Mowery said.
In most cases when a team is down as big as what Cloverdale was, it tends to fold under the pressure. But not Cloverdale. It did the exact opposite. The team pulled together and rallied to send the game into extra innings.
Brianna Hoff started Cloverdale off with a single, then moved to second on Kayla Shepherd's single. Cloverdale then got an even bigger break, loaded bases, when Smith drew the walk; setting up one of the team's biggest sticks -- Gutierrez. After going 1-for-3 in the first six innings, Gutierrez belted one into the outfield for a two-run single, cutting the Bulldog lead to two.
Maybe it was the weather or maybe it was the softball gods shinning upon Cloverdale, but whatever it was, it was working because Cloverdale kept getting the breaks it needed.
With the score 6-4, having only one out and runners at first and third, Cloverdale needed to keep the hits coming and that is what it did -- well sort of.
When Martika Byrd stepped up to the plate and blasted one right to the right fielder, everyone including the runners at first third thought she was out. That was until the right fielder dropped the ball, allowing Smith to score and Gutierrez to advance to second. Then like clockwork it happened again, this time in left field. Kristin McCammon stepped into the batters box and popped one up into left field and like the play before, the left fielder dropped the ball, but instead of getting a run out of it, Cloverdale got an out when Gutierrez was picked off trying to make it to third.
And the rally that Cloverdale staged was beginning to look in vane. It was still down by one, 6-5, and had two outs and only one runner on base, Byrd, at second. What Cloverdale needed was a walk off homer to seal the deal; what it got was just as good.
With her teammate standing on second, Whitney Bond stepped into the batters box, knowing that her teams fate rested on her shoulders, hit a RBI-double to tie the game, sending the game into extra innings.
For the next two innings, the both teams exchanged scares by getting runners into scoring position, but it was Cloverdale who got the final run in the bottom of the ninth.
Gutierrez was the Clovers first at-bat of the inning and reached with a single. Byrd moved her to third with a double and while McCammon was up to bat, the ball got away from the Bulldogs catcher allowing Gutierrez to score the game winning run.
"These kids hung in there," Mowery said. "They kept their composure and won the game."
Mowery acknowledge that the Clovers sectional championship was no easy feat.
"This team beat some very good teams to win this championship," Mowery said. "North Putnam, Cascade and Monrovia were all very good teams."
For the three seniors, McCammon, Shepherd and Bond, on Cloverdale's team, this season and Monday's win was very special to them.
"This is the first winning season we have had," the trio said. "At the beginning of the season, we never thought we be standing here as sectional champions."
Cloverdale moves on too the Forest Park Regional and plays Linton in game two which is slated for 1 p.m.
Monrovia 500 100 00 -- 6 8 2
Cloverdale 000 011 401 -- 7 12 4
Byrd and Gutierrez (CL); Hunter and Hadley (MO)
WP -- Gutierrez
LP -- Hadley
2B -- Anderson (CL), Bond (CL), Byrd (CL)
3B -- Vondersaar (MO)
Next Game -- Cloverdale takes on Linton in game two of the Forest Park Regional at 1 p.m.