FRESNO - With rain pouring down on Margie Wright Diamond, the Kingsburg Vikings prevailed through the weather conditions to end its season on top.
A fly ball caught by Carla Duarte sealed the Vikings fate as Central Section Division II champions after a 12-8 victory over the Hanford Bullpups on Saturday.
It’s the program’s first Valley title since 2013 and for Kingsburg’s fourth-year head coach Randy Sieger, it’s his first section championship.
“It feels great right now, it really does” Sieger said. “It’s why you do this and hopefully you get the chance to play for one and when you do and are fortunate enough to win it, it’s a great feeling.”
In a game that started with light raindrops, the rain and Kingsburg's offense picked up in the fifth inning. To break a 4-4 tie, the Vikings put together an eight run inning to go up 12-4. Kingsburg had 13 batters during the eight-run frame.
“We love playing in the rain,” Vikings second baseman Marissa Montelongo said. “In any circumstances, we will play. So playing in the rain was just a normal day for us having fun and playing the game that we love.”
Kingsburg started it’s eight run output with back-to-back RBI doubles from Brianna Vela and Madison Alves. Mia Estrada - the game’s winning pitcher - added to the Kingsburg’s lead with an RBI single and Duarte later knocked in a run with a single of her own.
In her second at-bat of the inning, Marissa Gonzalez, the team’s home run and RBI leader, had a chance to break the game wide open with the bases loaded. Blaire Willson, Montelongo, and Duarte were on base with two outs.
With her team up 8-4, Gonzalez displayed the power that she’s shown all season by hitting a double deep into right field to clear the bases. The sophomore’s double was inches away from being a grand slam.
“Everyone had the same plan. Move runners, get base hits, especially with the rain,” Gonzalez said. “As long as you don’t hit it up, you’ll be fine. Our goal was just line drives and ground balls and move everyone over.”
Gonzalez, who is called “rabbit” by her teammates and coaches, went 2-for-4 with a triple, a double, and four RBIs. She recorded her first RBI of the game with a stand up triple to give the Vikings a 1-0 in the first inning. Gonzalez knocked in Duarte from first base on the triple. Gonzalez scored the team’s second run of the game after avoiding being tagged on a rundown.
The sophomore finished an incredible year at the plate with a .500 average along with 11 home runs and 54 RBIs. She led the team in all three batting categories.
After her double, Gonzalez would end up scoring Kingsburg’s final run of the game. Taryn Irigoyen knocked in Gonzalez with an RBI double for the Vikings’ 12th run. It was the only RBI for Irigoyen, who finished the game 3-for-4 with two doubles.
Kingsburg’s scoring binge ended with Alves hitting a fly ball to Hanford third baseman Mia Stewart. Irigoyen and Vela, who reached on a walk, were left on base.
After both teams were held scoreless in the sixth inning, Hanford made the Vikings earn it’s title in the seventh. The Bullpups had four-straight base runners and would score two runs on an error. Hanford scored two more times on a two-run single from Hannah Costa.
Costa would be Bullpups’ final base runner after leadoff hitter Emily Juarez flied out to Duarte for the final out.
“This is the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had,” Montelongo said about the win. “It’s been awhile since we’ve won one for softball and just to be playing out here with my best friends, it was an amazing feeling.”
It was Montelongo’s fourth overall Valley championship as a Kingsburg athlete. The junior has won three-straight Central Section titles with the girl’s soccer team, but earning one in softball was something on her list of accomplishments.
“It’s our first one in a long time and my first one,” Montelongo said. “I’m pumped. I’m overwhelmed.”
Montelongo had a crucial hit in the fourth inning that tied the game 4-4. With two outs, Montelongo knocked in Caitlyn Vela second base on a single. The Bullpups had a 4-3 lead after scoring four runs in the third inning.
For the team’s only two seniors on the team, Duarte and Alves, both girls provided timely hits in their final high school softball game.
Duarte was 2-for-4 with an RBI and Alves went 1-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Alves first RBI occurred in the first inning on a sacrifice fly that scored Irigoyen. That score extended the Vikings lead to 3-0.
With both girls leaving, next year’s squad will provide plenty of experience and youth, as nine of the 13 girls on this season’s roster are sophomores.
“We should be back in the mix again, but that’s a long way from now,” Sieger said. “We’re just going to celebrate this and worry about that when we get back at it in October.”
Kingsburg’s 2019 championship season ends at 24-5-1 overall, which included a 9-3 record in Central Sequoia League play. The Vikings finished in a second place tie with Hanford West and Dinuba was the CSL champion at 10-2.
Even though the Vikings’ CSL record wasn’t good enough to win a league championship, celebrating a Valley championship in the rain is something the girls wouldn’t trade for anything.
“I rather play in the rain any day for a ring and a hat,” Gonzalez said. “Yeah, it was worth it.”