Going to the Central Coast Section playoffs for the first time since 2010, the Gunn players had to be excited by the opportunity to compete in a playoff softball game on their home field.
It turns out the Titans might have been a little over-amped for their Division I opening-round contest, as they allowed a season-high number of runs in their 14-6 loss to Homestead on Wednesday.
"All the hype and pressure built up, and we were not making the routine plays we would normally make," Gunn head coach Matt Maltz said. "I think they were a little nervous about playing. Not one single player on this team had been to CCS before."
The jitters might have contributed to a sloppy overall game from the sixth-seeded Titans, as they committed three errors in the field, and had four girls run into outs on the basepaths.
"I think one of the things that got to our team today was a lack of experience," Maltz said. "Hopefully they've shaken some of this out of their system, and in next year's playoffs we'll do better."
Starting pitcher Iris Chin was charged with 10 earned runs in her seven innings of work for the Titans. The normally reliable junior ended up walking six batters in the game and allowing 14 hits.
"We've rode Iris' arm the entire season," Maltz said. "So maybe the combination of her being physically tired and the mental aspect of it being the first time in CCS contributed to (her performance)."
Gunn was led by sophomore Anna Tevanian, who accumulated three hits, including a game-tying RBI double in the third inning. Sophomore Emma Wager, Gunn's leading hitter, had an off day at the plate, going 0-4 with two strikeouts.
The No. 11-seeded Mustangs (15-13) from the SCVAL De Anza Division were able to overcome their own set of blunders in the field, as they compensated for their five errors with a collection of outstanding at-bats.
"I wasn't surprised by Homestead's offense," Maltz said of the Mustangs, who will face No. 3-seeded San Benito in the second round of CCS. "I probably didn't expect quite as many (runs) though. I thought it would be a tighter game."
In particular, Homestead received a terrific all-around performance from junior Maggie Matzinger, who compiled three hits, three runs, three RBI and two stolen bases on the afternoon.
Facing an early 5-2 deficit, Gunn rallied to tie the score in the bottom of the third inning. Sophomore Katie Garvey and Tevanian each delivered RBI hits to spark the Titans' rally.
The Titans' momentum did not last long however, as Homestead sent 12 batters to the plate and scored eight runs in the top of the fourth to break the game wide open.
"We just had to overcome our nerves early," Homestead head coach Steve Allemandi said of his own young squad. "But, once we settled down, we played well."
Each team only scored one more run for the rest of the contest, with Gunn never producing a large enough rally to make the game competitive again.
By virtue of winning the SCVAL El Camino Division championship this season, Gunn secured a spot in the De Anza Division -- meaning next year the Titans will have league games against Homestead and a bevy of other strong programs.
"We know we'll be playing more teams like Homestead, and even better teams," Tevanian said. "I think we're all going to improve over the summer, and we're just going to get stronger and stronger."
Tevanian mentioned that the Titans can specifically improve their hitting and clean up their defense for next season, welcomed words for Maltz who has lofty expectations for his 2015 squad that is expected to return all nine starters.
"I think next year we are going to be a team that needs to be watched," Maltz said. "The biggest thing we've got going for us now is the youth on this team that is coming back. We've done a lot this year together, and I am going to expect us to do very well in De Anza next year."
In a CCS Division III opener, 13th-seeded Castilleja was knocked out by host and No. 4-seeded Half Moon Bay, 12-2, in six innings. The Gators (11-14) managed just two hits and committed three errors.