In 1995, Ceres High School’s varsity softball team did the unexpected by winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II championship.
The third-seeded Bulldogs’ improbable run in postseason play started with a 2-1 upset win over top-seeded Colfax in the first round and culminated with an 8-2 victory against No. 2 East Union in the finals at the Sacramento Softball Complex.
Ceres High captured its second section title in program history at the same site Thursday night.
The No. 3 Bulldogs ended a 21-year drought between championships by edging out No. 5 Benicia 3-2 in the Division-III finals.
“It would be devastating for the girls if we lost,” Ceres High head coach Angela Durossette said leading up to the title game. “Worst-case scenario is second place. They want to finish in first place. That’s our goal. That’s been our focus.”
Junior pitcher Callie Nunes notched her 20th win of the season as the Bulldogs held off the Panthers.
Nunes allowed two runs and six hits with nine strikeouts and two walks in seven innings.
“I knew she had it in her,” said Nicole Bates, Ceres High’s star shortstop. “She just had to dig deep and she did.”
Bates, who will continue her softball career at the University of Washington next spring, accounted for three of the Bulldogs’ six hits.
Nicole doubled once, singled twice and scored once.
Nunes and sophomore Andrea Duran both drove in one run.
Senior Sabrina Baisdon batted 1-for-3 with one run.
Junior Natalia Cortez tallied one run.
Senior Mackenzie Veuve and junior Rayohna Sagapolu chipped in with one single apiece.
Ceres High played flawless defense.
Baisdon had four putouts while starring in centerfield.
The Bulldogs (23-5) managed to beat the Panthers (23-7) despite stranding nine runners on base.
Ceres High jumped on Benicia early by scoring three times in the top of the first inning.
The Panthers scored one run in both the first and fifth innings.
“It was such a fun game,” Nicole said. “It was intense. There were so many emotions. We weren’t really feeling any pressure.”
Bates secured the victory with an unassisted double play.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” she said. “It just happened. It was pretty cool.”
Faced with a winner-take-all scenario after losing 8-1 to Benicia, Ceres High won the third meeting between the two teams. The Bulldogs edged the Panthers twice by one run.
The Bulldogs topped the Panthers 1-0 in 10 innings during their semifinal matchup on Tuesday.
Ceres High won five of six games in the 2016 playoffs.
The Bulldogs beat Benicia twice, and No. 2 Oakdale, No. 6 Pioneer and No. 14 American Canyon once.
Ceres High reached the pinnacle of its sport thanks to its pitching, offense and defense.
The Bulldogs were a model of consistency throughout the postseason.
“We played more as a team this year,” Bates said. “We played for one another. We wanted that section title.”
Ceres High reached unprecedented heights when it captured its first section title 21 years ago in 1995.
The 2016 Bulldogs were crowned Division-III champs after collecting their 23rd victory of the season on Thursday.
Ceres High had to settle for runner-up honors in 1993, 1991 and 1989.
“We’ve always been pushing and striving for that section title,” Bates said. “We finally got it. It’s crazy. It’s been 21 years since we’ve won one. It’s the best feeling ever. It still seems unreal.”