The Amador Valley Dons varsity softball team won its second straight sectional title last weekend, capping their postseason run with a 5-1 victory over Union City's James Logan High in the tournament final.
"I couldn't be more proud of their determination and commitment. They all have each other's back and know that their teammate is there to pick them up if they are struggling," Dons head coach Teresa Borchard said.
Amador Valley (24-3) ended its season on a 14-game winning streak, but the road to this year's crown provided different challenges than those faced by the school's 2014 championship squad, which posted a perfect 27-0 season.
"Last year we were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation, and having lost so many great players, no one expected anything from us," Borchard said. "The players bought into our culture and believed that if they worked hard enough, they could accomplish anything they wanted."
The Dons got off to a 10-3 start to open the 2015 campaign, including a stretch where they lost three of 10 games. But after a tight 1-0 loss to Livermore High on April 14, Amador Valley would find its consistency and not drop another game all season.
"Having graduated six seniors (last year), it took us sometime to work through our weaknesses and for everyone to become confident in their position. It's an amazing feeling to have bounced back so strong," Borchard said.
That Livermore game would mark the Dons' only loss within the East Bay Athletic League (EBAL), and they took home this year's league crown with a 13-1 record in EBAL play.
Amador Valley entered the CIF North Coast Section Division I championship tournament as the No. 1 seed, earning a first-round bye.
The Dons opened the sectional competition with a 3-0 win against San Ramon's Dougherty Valley in the quarterfinal. They followed up with a hard-fought semifinal victory over Castro Valley on June 2.
That set the stage for the final against No. 3 seed James Logan (23-3-1) at Saint Mary's College in Moraga last Saturday, a clash of two premier softball programs who have combined to win every NCS Division 1 championship since 2010.
The Dons jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back, giving up a lone run in the top of the fourth but getting that run right back in the bottom half en route to the 5-1 win.
Sophomore Sofia Molina had two RBI in the title game, senior Sammy Salustri went 2-for-3 with a run and RBI, and senior Katey Moore went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Amador Valley freshman Danielle Williams went 2-for-2 at the plate and struck out nine James Logan batters on the rubber.
Those performances, and others, helped the Dons seal their third sectional title in the past five years.
Getting out to an early lead, like they did in the sectional final, was a theme for the Dons all season. They scored first in 24 of their 27 games.
They were no stranger to dramatic matchups either, earning five one-run victories and winning six games in their final at-bat, including two walk-offs.
Williams was a team leader on both sides during her freshman season.
The lefty led the Dons with a .519 batting average, 41 hits, 20 RBI and a 1.159 OPS (on-base plus slugging), according to year-end statistics provided by Borchard. As a pitcher, Williams started every game, threw 168 2/3 of the team's 184 innings and finished with a 0.79 ERA.
Salustri, who played second base, had a strong senior season, batting .451 with 37 hits, five doubles, 13 RBI and .998 OPS.
Senior center-fielder Courtney Hennings also starred for Amador Valley, hitting .310 with 26 hits, 8 extra-base hits (including four home runs), 21 runs scored, 12 walks and 12 stolen bases -- the team leader in those last three categories.
As a team, the Dons hit their stride during EBAL play, batting .316 as a group with 120 hits and scoring 65 runs while only allowing nine runs overall.
The final league game, May 21 against crosstown rival Foothill, was an especially gritty victory for the section champs.
The two Pleasanton teams were scoreless through seven innings before the visiting Dons scored two runs in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly and two-out single. The insurance run was needed, as the Falcons scored once in the bottom half but fell 2-1.
Foothill finished the season at 18-8. Seeded No. 6 in the section tournament, the Falcons beat Fremont's American High in their opener 12-2 in five innings but lost 2-0 to James Logan in the quarterfinal.