Stockdale pitcher Ashlee Rex has had more dominating performances this year; games with less hits allowed, and more strikeouts. But when it comes to pitching in the clutch, Rex was better than ever on Wednesday.
The hard-throwing senior deftly worked her way out of trouble several times to help Stockdale claim a 2-0 victory over Southwest Yosemite rival Frontier.
Rex (13-6, 0.42 ERA) went the distance in the circle, allowing three hits, and one walk. She also hit two Titans' batters with pitches and had four strikeouts.
Rex's strong effort paved the way for the Mustangs win their 11th game in a row and clinch at least a share of the SWYL championship.
Stockdale (15-6-2, 12-0) just needs to win one of its remaining three regular- season games, or for Frontier (22-6, 9-3) to lose one of its final three games in order to win the SWYL title outright.
While Rex did her part to keep Frontier off the scoreboard, Baylee Boren and McKenna Valencia provided the timely hitting for Stockdale with RBI singles.
Lucy Lopez and Aryka Chavez led the Mustangs with two hits each. Maryssa Melendez added a double and a run scored for Stockdale, which has outscored opponents 74-8 during the win streak.
"We made the plays defensively and Ashlee (Rex) threw a very good game for us," Stockdale coach Amanda Hockett said. "...She was hitting spots well and throwing that rise when we needed it to get the hitters off balance."
Frontier stranded seven runners, four of them in scoring position.
Every time the visiting Titans appeared poised to break through, Rex came up with a big pitch or one her teammates made a defensive play to snuff the rally.
"I have a lot of trust in my team that we'll all just get it done," Rex said.
In the first inning with two out and a runner on third, Rex whiffed Samantha Escobar on three pitches.
Two innings later, with two runners on, Rex got Escobar to hit an inning-ending infield pop out.
But her biggest escape job came in the fifth. When faced with runners on second and third and one out, she got Brenna Andrews to hit a harmless comebacker, and then fanned Escobar to end the threat.
"I've gained confidence so I don't get worked up about things as much anymore," Rex said. "I just think, 'I can do it. I can do it.'"
Rex sent the Titans down in order in the six and seventh innings to seal her seventh shutout of the year.
Frontier averages nearly 9 runs a game this season but has combined to score just one in a pair of losses to Stockdale.
"It's just poor execution on our part," Frontier coach Trevor Bazemore said of Wednesday's game. "We had them right where we wanted them...It's really tough to swallow. We've played this team twice and both times we could have beaten them. We have to bounce back though. The playoffs are coming."
Escobar (11-3) was the tough-luck losing pitcher for Frontier.
The sophomore worked all six innings for the Titans. She surrendered seven hits but didn't issue any walks and had two strikeouts. Only one of the two runs she allowed was earned as Stockdale's first score came after Alexis Rodriguez reached on an error.
"(Escobar) was excellent today," Bazemore said. "That was our shining star. She was very good. She located well ... She kept their hitters off balance. I can only think of one ball that was hit well off of her."
Two of the three Frontier hits were bunts. The Titans' only swinging hit came in the fourth inning when Kaycee Olson lashed a hard line drive past third base.
Stockdale, which began the season 4-6-2, will gets it first crack at wrapping up the SWYL title outright when it plays second-place Frontier again on Friday.
"I think with our strength of schedule that we play early in the season; it prepares us for our later games in league," Hockett said. "We want to play against the best competition that we can to help get us ready for our league because our league is very strong."