Nobody saw it coming. The Bruins, taking on San Benito in their CCS playoff opener on May 16, were just three outs away from a 1-0 shutout victory.
And then boom.
And then boom again.
Back-to-back home runs to leadoff the top of the seventh inning put the Haybalers ahead 2-1. Santa Clara’s senior ace pitcher Kathryn Caravalho had been cruising up until that point, but all of a sudden the Bruins trailed.
With last at bats on their home field, the Bruins still had a chance to rally. In the bottom of the seventh, sophomore Racquel Blassingame picked up her third hit of the afternoon with a one-out single. A special pinch runner came into run, but the next batter’s floating liner was caught by the second baseman. The runner at first was caught off the base for a game-ending and season ending double-play.
“I think it was either their No. 4 or No. 5 batter who also had a base hit earlier in the game,” remarked Bruins Head Coach John Rahbar on the Haybalers’ home run hitters. “It’s just one of those things, she swung at the first pitch of that seventh inning and just cracked it. Between the two of them, I think they had like seven home runs each. They have the pop, they have the smarts. At this level both teams have internal confidence, you’re not nervous. It was our best players against their best players, and unfortunately their best came out on top.”
It was an understandably emotional aftermath for the Bruins. Playing at home, to have the season and high school career end that way for Caravalho was tough to swallow. The emotions got the better of coach Rahbar when he saw his star pitcher “cleaning her house” for the last time, by dusting off the rubber in the pitcher’s circle.
“Take a picture of that,” remarked a choked up Rahbar. “That’s her house, and after every game she cleans her house. The girls nicknamed it the swamp. And this is the last time she’s gonna clean her house.”
Caravalho and Vanessa Bontrager are the only two graduating seniors for the Bruins this year on the 12-player roster. That said, both were huge contributors to the team’s success for the past four years. Caravalho threw over 90 percent of her team’s innings.
“They are the best players I have ever worked with,” said Blassingame on her graduating teammates. “Vanessa is such a team player. She will always help anybody, no matter what. Kat has saved us game after game and she is the most positive person that I could ever meet. To have that and also with the level of skill that they have, I could not have been any happier to play with anybody else.”