The jerseys the players wear are still black and gold, and they still have the word ‘Trojans’ stitched on the front of them.
However, this year’s Foothill softball team doesn’t look or play like any group that has represented the 57-year old school from the east side of town in a long, long time.
That point was demonstrated fully on Tuesday when Foothill turned in a near-flawless performance and defeated top-seeded South, 2-0, to earn a spot in the Central Section Division VI softball championship game.
Freshman Jasmine Westberry hurled a complete-game eight-hitter to propel the No. 5 Trojans to their semifinal victory over a Rebels team that into the matchup having won 14 of their previous 15 games.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” first-year Foothill coach Brooke Charles said. “My team is really headstrong. We faced a lot of adversity this year. They just know that when it’s game-time, it’s game-time. I’m really glad to have such competitors. I’m really blessed.”
Foothill (15-10) will face No. 2 Visalia-Central Valley Christian in the championship game on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Fresno State.
Foothill’s 15 wins is one more than the team won during its previous three years combined. The Trojans hadn’t more than nine games in a season in more than 15 years.
“From day one I told them, we’re not mediocre. I don’t care what people say about Foothill. I don’t care what the culture is. We’re going to come in, we’re going to make a statement, and we’re going to make changes.’ Charles said. “And from that day forward I think all the girls took that to heart.”
Westberry was locked up in scoreless pitcher’s duel with South’s Esmeralda Banuelos through the first three innings.
Finally, in the fourth the visiting Trojans plated a run against the Rebels hard-throwing right-hander.
Sophomore catcher Angelica Gomez led off the frame with a fly ball over the head of South left fielder Vanessa Marquez.
Gomez advanced to third on a fly out to right field by Connie Ramirez two batters after hitting the double. Moments later Gomez raced home on Ari Gutierrez’s bunt single.
The Trojans second run came in the sixth via a fielder’s choice grounder by Connie Ramirez after Alexis Castro led off the inning with a walk and later went to third on Jasmine Mendoza’s single.
The two-run cushion was more than enough for Westberry, who only allowed more than one hit in an inning one time. All eight of the hits she gave up were singles.
“All my pitches were on today,” Westberry said. “I was really proud of that…I couldn’t have done it without my team. They really backed me up. It was just hard work. We worked really hard to get here.”
South’s best opportunity to score came in the fifth when singles by Viviana Hidalgo and Unique Escandon put runners on the corners. However, Westberry (7-8) squelched the threat by fanning Marisa Garcia to end the inning.
While it was Westberry’s ability to come in through in the clutch that allowed her to earn the win, Banuelos (14-4) was the hard-luck loser.
The Rebels ace allowed just four hits and issued one walk while registering 10 strikeouts.
She struck out the side in order in both the third and seventh innings.
The biggest bright spot on offense for South was the hitting of Breanna Heinicke, who went 3 for 3.
The loss to Foothill closed out an outstanding 2019 season for South, which won 20 games and lost five. The Rebels won only 26 games combined during their previous 14 seasons.
“I feel like we’ve had an amazing season,” South coach Nicole Powell said. “These girls have worked really hard. I have half a team that had really never played before, so it’s nice to see how they’ve progressed. We have killer kids coming back next year. So, I’m super-excited for next year. We’re going to train early. It will be good.”
Foothill, which had five freshman and two sophomores in its starting lineup against South, is hoping Friday will be good for them. Charles doesn’t know if the Trojans have ever won a section title in softball.
“This is awesome,” Charles said. “I won a “Valley” ring when I was in high school. To, hopefully, be able to go out and do it as a coach is a huge accomplishment, especially because they’re so young. Next year we’ll be back here again. I trust in my team and their abilities far beyond measure. I’m excited.”
Gomez said the journey to getting to section championship game wasn’t easy but that the Trojans are ready for the challenge.
“We’ve really come a long way,” Gomez said. “We fought to get to where we are right now. I’m just proud of every single one of these girls. We’re going to take it. We got this.”