SAN JOSE — Watsonville High senior Jessica Rodriguez was spectacular throughout the season once again, breaking nearly every school pitching record in sight.
But the NCAA Division I bound player came up short in her final appearance, as the top-seeded Wildcatz fell to No. 3 Aragon, 6-1, on Saturday in the Central Coast Section Division I Finals at PAL Stadium.
“We had a lot of ups and downs and I thought it was amazing how we came back and made it to the championship,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez began the game with three straight strikeouts and looked like her usual self by throwing a combination of different pitches, including a deadly fastball.
But the Dons got on the board in the second inning after Rodriguez surrendered a pair of runs on two walks. That was followed up with a base hit by junior Shannon Galliano that drove in juniors Siulolovao Folau and Elisa Jee.
“It was frustrating because it was mostly on my part,” said Rodriguez about allowing the runs. “I missed my spots and they did what they were supposed to do.”
Rodriguez regained her composure in the third and fourth innings. Her defense, which had committed an error in the second inning, also rounded into form.
“I did good in the third inning and then it just went downhill from there,” she said.
Dons coach Roger Miller said they had some key injuries earlier in the season, but some players filled in when they had to.
“The great thing about it is our girls stepped up because we told them at the end of the season two positions for everyone and it paid off,” Miller said.
The Wildcatz got cooking on offense in the fourth inning when senior Jazmyn Martinez got on base with a single. She moved into scoring position after senior Juliana Wilson drew a walk.
Martinez crossed home plate to make it 4-1 after sophomore Anastacia Alba got her first hit of the day.
Freshman Rylee Gomez had a golden opportunity to add more runs with runners on second and third but struck out to end the inning.
“We were all just trying to get some base hits to get some runners on to score but we couldn’t hit off of her,” said Rodriguez, who was talking about Aragon starting pitcher Holly Fletcher.
The Dons’ senior recorded 11 strikeouts, gave up two walks and allowed a run on four hits in the complete game victory.
“(Fletcher) had a good rise ball, she got me twice on it swinging,” Wilson said. “But I feel like the umpire was kind of calling a little bit outside, but I know that we can’t have the umpire take the bat out our hands.”
Watsonville threatened to score again in the bottom of the fifth, which started with a double by freshman Marissa Martinez. Rodriguez followed up with base hit that moved her teammate to third.
With the bases loaded, Wilson had a chance to knock in some more runs, but came up on the short end popping up to center field.
“We had opportunities, a few. Not very many,” said Watsonville coach Scott Wilson. “Credit to (Aragon’s) pitcher, she did an excellent job with location and mixing it up.”
The Dons also capitalized on mistakes from Watsonville’s defense, including an error committed by freshman Yaviana Prado on a fly ball in the fifth inning.
The mistake allowed Aragon sophomore Katie Marin to score and extend the lead to 5-1. They added an insurance run in the seventh on freshman Megan Grant’s second RBI of the afternoon.
Coach Wilson said there are three elements to the game he likes to secure: pitching, defense and offense.
“And we didn’t secure any of them,” Wilson said.
They didn’t win the title, but that doesn’t mean they failed, Wilson said.
“What it means is there are certain things that we need to get better at,” Wilson said.
“One game can’t represent what we did all season long. We got here by persevering through tough times and come from behind wins… That’s what it’s about. One game doesn’t define who we are as a team.”
Juliana Wilson said she was happy to reach the championship game and proud of what the team accomplished throughout the year.
“It is sad that we came up short but I can’t dwell on it because we did push. We did fight,” she said. “And we got to somewhere where most teams didn’t end up.”
Rodriguez said the team went through a rollercoaster season with good and bad outcomes. But most of it was good, especially the final push to make it to Saturday’s championship game.
“I really wanted to win this game but I’m just so proud of my team for making it this far,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez finished her high school career with a little more than 700 strikeouts, a school record, and shattered other program records like most combined wins between her and Wilson.
Rodriguez and Wilson have played together for at least 15 years, including four at Watsonville High.
Wilson said it’s been a fun journey having that connection as a pitcher and catcher along with a lifelong friendship.
“I know that today didn’t go as well as (Rodriguez) hoped but she’s an amazing pitcher,” Wilson said.
Wilson said next year’s squad will be in good shape as long as it puts in the time and effort to work on its craft.
“Just wanting to have that drive to actually get to CCS,” Wilson said.
Juliana Wilson said this season was tough because some of the players weren’t used to the intensity of CCS, but believes they can get back to the playoffs again.
“They are an amazing group of girls that have a bunch of talent,” she said. “They just have to keep working and push to get to where they want.”