by Mike Finnerty (email@example.com)
There was a little bit of everything in the North's 10-5 win over the South in the 35th annual Evening Optimist All Star game softball game played Wednesday at Capital Christian High School.
Home runs, manufactured runs, great defense, and dominant pitching, the game had all, and for North head coach Art Banks of Woodcreek, there wasn't much he had to do.
"It's just a lot of fun to be out here. These girls can all play softball. They can all hit the ball, they can all field the ball, and you just put them out there and let them do their thing. It's fun."
Getting on the board first was the North with solo homer by Alyssa Reina (Bear River), but in the second the North manufactured it's runs.
With Courtney Johnson (Woodcreek) on third and Stephanie Ceo (Bear River) on first, Woodcreek pulled a double steal where Johnson slid in safe at home to make it 2-0 North.
With one out in the top of the third, the South scored all five of it's runs for the game. A double by Taylor McClanahan of Cosumnes Oaks tied the game at 2-2, and then Carlee Gray of Elk Grove (South MVP) followed with a three-run homer to left to put the South up, 5-2.
The North answered back in the home half of the third with a three-run homer of it's own thanks a blast by Johnson of Woodcreek. From there, this game was all North.
Whitney Smith (Del Oro) and Natalie Hampton (Center) delivered with run-scoring singles in the fourth.
In the fifth, Paige Davis (Woodcreek) lined a base hit to the left-center gap that scored two more runs to make it 9-5 North, but when Davis tied to led the single into a double she was thrown out at second, but the damage was done.
Banks had nothing but praise for his pair of Woodcreek stars who combined for six RBI's.
"Those two girls (Johnson and Davis) have come through for us all year, like our whole team. Courtney had a real nice pitch to hit and just drilled it and tied up the game for us. Paige tried to stretch the single into a double, she's always hustling and that's what you want."
As for the dominant pitching, that was provided by the North as they held the South to just four hits for the entire game.
The North turned to Pioneer's Brittanie Akey in the fifth where she allowed no runs and no hits. and struck out two in her two innings in the circle.
However, it was the pitching of Del Oro's Jordan Courage, the North MVP, that put the clamps down on the South. Courage came on in the sixth and struck out the side, before retiring the next six batters she would face to close out the five-run victory for the North.
"It's nice because the high school season didn't really end the way I wanted it to," said Courage. "So to be able to come out here and have a second chance is really nice."
"She (Courage) didn't let them have anything, it was great," said Banks. "She was just throwing bb's out there, just let her take care of the work, ice in her veins."
There were terrific defensive plays throughout the game as well, including a play made in Ceo with a diving catch, while Smith of Del Oro threw out several runners from her usual shortstop position.
Smith was solid with the bat as well going 2 for 3 for the only multi-hit performance in the game that led an 11-hit attack for the North.
It was a great two weeks for Banks, which not only included the Optimist win, but more importantly it included a Division II section championship win over Del Campo last week. A nice way to cap off the season for only coach Woodcreek has ever had and who has more than 600 wins in his career.
"It's all gravy. We just look forward to next year."