Gunn might have a young overall team, but the Titans have become grizzled veterans at playing in tight ballgames. Coming into Tuesday afternoon's matchup against Cupertino, Gunn had played in a total of six one-run contests this season.
With so much experience playing in close games, it was no surprise that Gunn was able to keep its composure with a Central Coast Section berth on the line.
The Titans received seven stellar innings on the mound from their star pitcher, junior Iris Chin, to help them defeat the visiting Pioneers, 3-2, and clinch no worse than a share of the SCVAL El Camino Division championship.
"The number one goal coming into the season was to win league," Gunn head coach Matt Maltz said. "We still aren't quite there yet since our goal is to be sole champions . . . but, I'm very proud of this team. This is where we wanted to be."
With a co-championship secured, Gunn clinches a spot in the upcoming CCS playoffs for the first time since 2010.
With so many young players on the team coming back for next season, Maltz felt it was important for his girls make it to CCS this season to expose them to playoff softball.
"I've got 11 out of 12 players returning next year," Maltz said. "Most of our starters are sophomores and they'll have a lot of experience now. But, our sights are still set on finishing this season out and making a difference."
Chin pitched another brilliant game for the Titans, allowing just one earned run and striking out eight to lower her season ERA to a paltry 1.12. The junior, who had previously no-hit the Pioneers in five innings on April 8, complimented Cupertino on the adjustments they made against her Tuesday.
"They were easily tracking some of my riseballs today," Chin said. "That's what I was getting them out on in the first game so kudos to them for that."
Gunn got on the scoreboard first in the third inning, as junior Natalie Oda led off the inning with a single, and Chin drove her home with a triple to right field. Sophomore Emma Wager followed up with an RBI single to give Gunn an early 2-0 lead.
The Pioneers struck back with an RBI single from sophomore Agnes Jang in the top of the fourth, but Gunn stretched the lead back up to two in the bottom of the fifth as Chin scored from third on a wild pitch.
Cupertino threatened to tie the game up in the top of the sixth inning, as the Pioneers loaded the bases with nobody out. However, Chin pitched through the trouble, retiring the next three batters while allowing only a single run to score on a wild pitch.
In the top of the seventh, Cupertino mounted one last rally against Chin, as Jordan Amick tripled with one out. Chin buckled down once again, striking out Leah Ramirez and coaxing a fly out from Ariana Garcia to end the game.
"She always finds a way to make it work," Maltz said of his pitcher. "Iris has gotten in jams before like that and she's been able to rely on her defense to back her up. And then there are times where she just sucks it up and gets the strikeout that we need."
Although Gunn was able to squeak by with the victory, Chin acknowledged that Gunn will need to do a better job of adding on insurance runs late in games if they are to succeed in future games.
"We need to keep the pressure on for the whole game," Chin said. "In this game we had one inning with two runs, but we just plateaued there. In the future we need to continue pushing."
On Thursday, Gunn will square off at home against crosstown rival Paly at 4 p.m. With a Gunn win, or a Mountain View loss against host Milpitas, the Titans will win the division title outright.
"We are in control of our own destiny," Maltz said. "It's the first time in a long while that we've been in control of that."
Palo Alto and Gunn shared the El Camino Division title in 2010 and both advanced to CCS. The Vikings (4-7, 14-12) won be playing in the postseason this year, but still can run Gunn's title plans.
Palo Alto celebrated its Senior Day with an 8-3 victory over visiting Fremont on Tuesday. The Vikings overcame a 2-0 deficit in the first inning by scoring four runs in the third and fourth frames.
Sophomore Maddie Martinson had two hits and drove in three runs for Paly while senior Julia Saul and junior Casey Glassford each had two hits and two RBI. Seniors Hannah Bundy, Tori Destefano and Emma Noroian all made the most of their final home game by producing two hits each.
Saul pitched a complete-game seven-hitter, allowing only two earned runs while striking out eight.
Sacred Heart Prep advanced to the quarterfinals of the Peninsula Athletic League playoffs with an 8-2 victory over host Hillsdale on Tuesday. The Gators (15-12) will visit Terra Nova on Wednesday at 4 p.m., needing a victory to reach the semifinals on Thursday. The playoff championship game will be Saturday at Half Moon Bay at 4 p.m.
Andrew Daschbach slammed a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to give SHP an 8-1 lead. Danny Cody and Charlie Boyden also drove in a pair of runs to support the solid pitching of Will Johnston, who limited Hillsdale to one run over five innings.
In other quarterfinal games today, Menlo-Atherton will host Aragon and Menlo School will host Half Moon Bay.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division playoffs, host Palo Alto let a 3-0 lead get away and suffered an 8-4 loss to Saratoga. The Vikings (15-13) need to beat the host Falcons on Thursday to force a winner-take-all game on Friday at Paly, also at 4 p.m., to determine the divisional playoff champion.
Paly grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second when Noah Phillips drove home Owen Plambeck with an infield grounder. In the third, Bowen Gerould beat out an infield single and Phil Lewis got aboard safely with a bunt. Jack Cleasby then brought both home with a double to deep center field.
Holding a 3-0 lead, Paly coach Erick Raich pulled starter Danny Erlich after 3 1/3 innings. Erlich is still working himself back into shape after missing the regular season with an injury.
The Vikings couldn't hold on, however, despite an RBI double by Plambeck in the fifth.
In a playoff game that determines who will be relegated to the El Camino Division, Gunn (2-27) dropped an 11-6 game to host Mountain View. The teams will meet again Thursday at Gunn at 4 p.m., with the Titans needing a win to force a third game Friday.
Menlo-Atherton opened the West Bay Athletic League playoffs with a 15-2 romp over visiting Notre Dame-San Jose. The Bears had finished third in the Foothill Division while NDSJ had won the Skyline Division.
Menlo-Atherton was up 6-0 six minutes into the game on three goals from freshman Grace Tully and the Bears never looked back. Sophomore center Sally Carlson had five goals, two assists and eight self draws. Freshman attacker Izzy Regonini had five assists and two goals. The Bears (9-10-1) got great defense from Hannah Wilson, Sydney Frame and Gianna Prainito.
The Bears next will face second-place Menlo School on Thursday in a semifinal match on the Knights' field at 5 p.m. Regular-season league champ Sacred Heart Prep will host Mitty, a 16-7 winner over Castilleja, in the other semifinal Thursday (5 p.m.)
Castilleja (6-9) got three goals from Paige Vermeer and two from Ellie Zales in the loss to Mitty, which grabbed a 10-3 halftime lead.